I’m excited to tell you that, together, we have already given 67 retreats and inspired nearly 2,200 youth. One of my favorite parts of giving these retreats is the transformation from “I’m tired and don’t want to be on retreat on a Saturday” to smiling and tearing up when saying goodbye to the missionaries. I have really liked investing in the youth, especially within my small groups. I feel that I have let my heart really love them personally this year, despite that this makes the retreat hurt a lot more when they leave. But I have peace and joy in my heart, knowing that I let Jesus love them through me with no holding back. At the end of the retreat, my heart feels as though it is a little broken due to feeling Jesus’ strong love for them. It is because of this encounter with Jesus and with someone who really cares to see them that I’ve seen youth go from feeling purposeless to believing that there is more to life.
I’ve been receiving great leadership formation. As a servant leader, I have been working more closely with our leadership on staff as they have been forming me with their example of hard work and perseverance with the mission. We also receive weekly formation! One of my favorites this year was when we went to a Byzantine monastery. It reminded me of the beauty of our universal Catholic Church, and I felt supported by the fact that we’re all doing our part and walking together in this climb to Heaven. The missionaries are also individually being formed with a spiritual director. I first began spiritual direction last year, and it is still so refreshing to slow down and see my relationship with Jesus through my spiritual director each time we meet.
I am very thankful for this opportunity!
Alondra Almader, Servant Leader
It seems like this year is only half-way through, and yet so much as already happened! As with my previous years on the SPIRITUS team, time flies by unbelievably fast.
We are in the heart of our retreat season and I enjoy the surprise the youth have when they realize that they actually are having fun at a Catholic event! It’s so good to reach the kids who have negative expectations and opinions of the Church, and when they actually experience the joy and fun of a retreat, everything changes! To be able to shatter what they thought they knew about the faith by being present as a young adult who is having fun and is vibrantly Catholic is a gift that I enjoy giving! I am grateful for this opportunity to widen their horizons while showing them the beauty and truth that comes with knowing the Lord.
On our retreats, I have seen a great deal of impact on the lives of the students. There was one moment in particular that I look back on very fondly. I was praying with a high school student individually during one-on-one prayer, and he started breaking down as he told me about his life. He felt so much empathy for those around him, and he wasn’t sure how to handle it, sometimes feeling like it was a bad thing. I listened for twenty minutes as he went on about everything he was going through, and my heart was moved with compassion for him. We talked about how the empathy he experiences is a gift, and the Lord is desiring to use him to bring love and understanding into the lives of so many of his classmates. In that moment, the way he approached his friendships and how he looked at himself changed, and he felt relief as he realized the great gift he had been given! It was such a blessing for both of us: for him to understand how the Father created him and is moving in his life and for myself to witness Christ working through me!
Thank you for continuing to pray for SPIRITUS, we will continue to pray for you.
Gabriel Ogle, Servant Leader
The students aren’t the only ones that are impacted by SPIRITUS. We missionaries are impacted in so many ways. One of the biggest ways I’ve been impacted by SPIRITUS is by becoming more aware of how the Holy Spirit wants to use me and speak through me to the youth and my teammates. During conversations, especially those of comfort or counsel, I am now more aware of what words the Holy Spirit wants to say. There have been several times now that I have said something that is too perfect for the situation or have made an analogy that I have never considered or never would have come up with on my own that end up being exactly what someone needs to hear in the moment. I have also built up more confidence to simply go out and allow myself to be His vessel of love.
Thanks to your prayers, investment, and support, I’ve been receiving great leadership formation. One of my favorite topics so far was on healing and how to allow the Holy Spirit to be a part of the process of mending the wounds in our lives. It is incredible how much I have grown and learned in the last year through formation each week. Thanks to the opportunity to go to monthly spiritual direction, I have had such beautiful guidance as to where to put my focus in prayer in order to continue to grow in faith and trust. My spiritual director even commented last month that she has had so much joy watching me blossom in the last year and that I have become so much more open and confident.
I will take these gifts that I have received through the Holy Spirit into my future.
Megan Seamann, Servant Leader
I need to tell you about how the youth are being impacted. Sadly, some of the youth are entranced with the illusion of the materialistic things of this world. The world tricks us to live for comfort. The reality is that we are designed to live in a world full of God’s love. Through the retreats, I am reminded that, as a missionary, we are called to show the youth authentic love. The Lord wants to love them past comfort; He wants to fight for their hearts and to have them realize the depth of how significant they are.
One of my favorite parts of giving retreats is one-on-one prayer. This is a part of the retreat when I am able to hear about the teens’ hurts and wounds and we can pray together for the things that they bring to the Lord. As I am praying over the teens, I am reminded that I am truly a vessel for God.
Our new LOVED retreat is having a great impact on the students. A lot of them don’t understand the overwhelming love of God, nor do they see how much He wants them to live in that love. One of the students I encountered told me she was feeling really frustrated because of her constant sadness. She felt that nothing she ever did was enough, leaving her with the feeling of emptiness. Talking to her, I could see how God was calling her to fill the voids of her heart with His love. As I prayed with her, I could feel her heart opening up to God. I could see the happiness and content on her face. My friend, as you read this, I pray you can experience that same love, too.
I am looking forward to seeing what God has planned for me during the second half of my missionary year!
Abbie Arribe, Youth Ministry Intern
One of my favorite things about being a SPIRITUS Missionary is praying for the youth throughout the retreat. Often, I’ll be sitting with the youth, and the Holy Spirit just urges me to offer up their souls to God and to fight for them!
It is amaing to see just how the youth are being impacted on retreats. When we encounter the youth, they truly begin to realize that God is right there waiting for them. There was a moment on retreat when I was praying with a youth, and I could see in his eyes that, for the first time, he was realizing that he was angry with God. By realizing that, he was finally able to confront it and discover that God was actually waiting for him, like the loving Father that He is, rather than watching with disappointment, like he thought God had been.
While on retreat, the students are able to see that God’s love doesn’t have a price tag on it and that it’s bursting at the seams, just waiting to be poured over them. One thing that touches me on this retreat is when students write down things that have broken their hearts. When I see them writing these pains that they suffer, I am reminded just how much they need God’s love and how we missionaries are the first responders to the wounds of their souls.
I am excited to see what God continues to have in store for me!
Desireé Barron, Retreat Team
I am very excited for the second half of the retreat year to begin! On every retreat, we have chances to pull aside each member from our small group and pray with them individually. This kind of scared me early on. I wasn’t really sure how to do it. But after a little practice, I’m starting to understand the process, and it’s had positive results. I’ve seen many students open up about their personal lives during one-on-one prayer. I’ve found that, although they don’t always trust other students on retreat, they do trust me and feel that I am a safe person to confide in. They enjoy talking about life for a little while and then praying about whatever comes up. The students really seem to appreciate it. They realize that we actually do care about them.
Another great part of retreats is the way in which the youth are impacted. During our final small group session, we each said something we liked about different members of the small group as we threw a ball of yarn to that person, thus creating a web. One boy in my small group previously confided in me during one-on-one prayer of the chronic loneliness he was experiencing and how it made him sad. It was hard to hear. But then he threw me the yarn and said he liked how I am always happy and that he wanted to choose happiness moving forward. I was shocked. The happiness they gave reflected off me and back to them. It created its own web, just like with the yarn.
My youth ministry internship at St. Pius X is going well. My goal is to build a youth community at the parish and teach them that church is a place where you can do more than just attend Mass and faith formation classes. You can also hang out with friends and have fun. If we successfully teach this to the youth, they are far more likely to continue to stick to their faith as adults and look to be involved within their parishes.
Thank you so much for your prayers and support,
Andy Chmura, Youth Ministry Intern
Being on SPIRITUS has been life changing. The relationships we build with the youth and spending time with them on retreat is very fun and meaningful. Being able to connect with the youth can really have a huge impact on them because they will trust more if they see us as helpful and open to what they have to say. Praying one-on-one allows them to share with someone who cares and is interested in helping them find God in their lives. Without the missionaries, the students may not have people around their age who can relate to them about things.
Another great thing about SPIRITUS is that we not only have the opportunity to lead other souls to Christ, but we also are really impacted by the ministry. Being a SPIRITUS missionary has definitely impacted my life. There are so many opportunities for Mass, prayer, discernment, formation, and community. One of the most important things to me is having the opportunity to attend daily Mass because it was something I enjoyed doing before SPIRITUS. Attending daily Mass is very meaningful to me because I am able to receive the body and blood of our Lord and savior Jesus. Having a holy hour everyday gives me the opportunity to spend more time with Jesus in prayer. All of these things help me be a better missionary.
I look forward to continue growing in my faith through SPIRITUS and helping the students grow in theirs.
Corey Fellabaum, Retreat Team
I am really enjoying my time on SPIRITUS and working to impact the lives of the young people we encounter, We missionaries also have great experiences through which we are impacted. I feel more meaning in my life now. Doing good work like this has helped me to be more joyful with life and to feel like I’m living my life in a much better way than I was before. SPIRITUS is also helping me to confront some of the problems in my life that I need God’s grace to work through. Different things here have helped me to realize that God is really calling me to overcome some struggles this year and to finally have those wounds healed that are holding me back from living more fully. There’s also been a lot of happiness that comes with this community since the people here are a lot of fun and are very supportive.
Thank you for investing in me with your support. There has been some great formation we’ve received in order to help us be better leaders in ministry. One that really impacted me was a training session we had on prophetic prayer. Going into it, I was a little skeptical about how legitimate it was. But when one of my fellow missionaries told me of a very specific image that the Holy Spirit gave him about me, I became more open to this form of prayer, especially since what my friend told me he received was very much in line with a struggle I’ve dealt with for a long time. Spiritual direction has been good as well and has been a way through which I can talk about my struggles. My spiritual director actually gave me a metaphor for one of my struggles, and that metaphor was similar to the one given by my fellow missionary at the prophetic prayer formation event. That was a great reinforcement that the prophetic prayer was something God really wants me to work on. I don’t think it was a coincidence that both my friend and my spiritual director used similar metaphors.
I am looking forward to seeing what the next four months has in store for me.
Joseph Hinshaw, Retreat Team
When I think about all of the retreats I’ve been a part of, it doesn’t seem like much. But then I consider the other retreats that my brother and sister missionaries have been a part of as well, and they all add up. Many times we scatter, then find ourselves reunited again, recollecting on our experiences. One of my favorite parts of giving retreats is simply being present with the students, especially in small groups. I spend time getting to know each student, such as what their favorite hobbies are outside of school, and listen to their stories about those hobbies in conjunction with their experience of the Catholic faith.
Many students develop a greater understanding of themselves from being on retreat, sharing that the retreat exceeded their expectations and is absolutely worth going to. They become open to the missionaries about how things are in their lives and talk with
us during small group discussions and/or one-on-one prayer, allowing themselves to be freed from any burdens holding them down. I once encountered a large amount of healing during a retreat at St. Lawrence Seminary High School. There was a forgiveness circle that allowed students to open up about how they have been hurt by others, thus allowing them to be relieved of the emotional pain. So many guys wanted to be forgiven by other students on the retreat; I have never seen so much brotherly love and bonding afterwards.
Andrew Hollands, Retreat Team
I wake up every morning and just feel blessed that I have the opportunity to spread the love of Christ to the Catholic youth. One of my favorite parts of giving retreats is the dramas that we do for the students. These dramas portray situations that youth are going through and how Jesus is right there with them through it all.
We have a drama that is about the hope that God can give us and how He sees us. Another one is about the love that God has for us and how we can lean on Him. The other one we present this year is for our Confirmation retreat and is about how Jesus is always walking with us on our life journeys and how we can lay all of the bad that happens in our lives down at the foot of His cross.
The retreat dramas make an impact on the students. I often see students really moved and in tears. This may be the first time that they understand that there are others going through what they are going through. The students also see how Jesus is right there with them. He is not there just watching it happen; He is walking with them.
Another great thing about SPIRITUS is that we not only have the opportunity to lead other souls to Christ but we are really impacted by the ministry as well. There have been so many things that have been a blessing here on SPIRITUS. I now understand what it means to be on fire with my faith. I am surrounded by 14 other young adults who are passionate about their faith and want to share it with others. Being with all of these people makes me want to grow closer to God. I have also grown so much as a person in just this short time. Before coming to SPIRITUS, I only knew myself on a surface level. Now, after four months, I understand who I am at a deeper level.
Please continue to keep SPIRITUS and this ministry in your prayers.
Claire Kalaus, Youth Ministry Intern
My time with SPIRITUS is going so quickly and I enjoy working with each youth we encounter through retreats. Part of giving retreats is giving a witness and one-on-one prayer. The sessions I usually give focus on why the faith is worth exploring and how to navigate temptations. One-on-one prayer allows us to pray with the youth about what is important to them. During a retreat, a girl in my small group was questioning the church’s social/moral teachings. When it was time for one-on-one prayer, she confided that these questions were important to her, but she felt belittled by others when asking the questions. As she wiped away her tears, I had the opportunity to affirm her and tell her that asking these questions is good because these are questions worth asking. After prayer, I also gifted some books to help her on her journey; what else would you expect from a philosophy major?
Our mission is to impact the youth, yet we missionaries are impacted as well. Working with a team of amazing missionaries has been life changing. I live with people with whom I feel safe being myself and who provide a wave of affirmation and support when I make mistakes or show weakness. My heart is changing by receiving such support and watching others affirm each other.
Part of being a missionary is willing to be formed as a disciple. This formation is done through preparing for book discussions, listening to different speakers, and attending spiritual direction. The book we are currently reading is called Redeeming Conflict by Ann M. Garrido. She offers habits for dealing with conflict that applies to being on a team and to simply being human. I plan on keeping these habits in mind no matter where I go or whom I work with.
I am so grateful for this opportunity and for everyone who helps support this mission.
Collin Killoren, Retreat Team
I am so grateful to be a part of SPIRITUS and being able to meet so many young adults who are on fire with the Catholic faith. It truly inspires my own faith life seeing so many future leaders of our Church.
It is amazing to see the youth on our retreats realize how God is always walking beside us in our daily lives. In today’s society, there are so many distractions, so it's important to reiterate to the youth that God is always with you. I can think back to many times that this has come up in our small groups, but the one that has stuck with me the most was when we led a retreat at Saint Lawrence Seminary High School. We started to talk about the biggest blessings in our lives, but it wasn’t until I asked them about their “thorns” that the kids realized God is present with us all day, helping us through our ups and our downs of the day. We were then able to talk about seeing God even during the bad days and how we can offer up our sufferings to God.
In the world we live in today, people are seeking love from so many worldly things that they forget who loved them first. It is so important to teach the students to look for the love they need from God. During a one-on-one prayer I had with a student, we were able to just talk about life and how it can be hard. She was telling me how she was struggling with accepting the Father’s love. WIth the help of the Holy Spirit, I was able to pray with her and, more importantly, for her. After we ended the prayer, she started to cry because she had felt God the Father “hug her heart.”
Thank you for all you have done to make SPIRITUS possible and for changing my life.
Alex Lupercio, Retreat Team
One of my favorite part of SPIRITUS is being able to hang out with the students and to get to know them on a more personal level.
We get to see the students where they are at with the faith and work with that to get them closer to God! And I love just seeing the beauty in each one of them and knowing that God made them and loves them so much. Giving these retreats makes me so happy and gives me encouragement that there is hope for these students. I also just love helping them see Jesus in a way they never have before--a way that will help them see the beauty of our faith.
Being in this ministry with 14 other missionaries is really a blessing. Some of us have never really felt that we’ve had someone to share the faith with or have been able to feel the love of God. But, here, you have all the missionaries and staff helping us to see how much God loves each one of us and being very open to talking about the faith. (Sometimes it’s hard to talk about faith when there are so many people out there who will tear you down once you mention religion.) This has opened my heart, knowing that I am not alone and can talk openly about Jesus. I also have others pushing me forward in our faith and to better myself in all that I do.
I am so grateful for this ministry and to act as an instrument to share God's word.
Christina Marchel, Youth Ministry Intern
The youth have a lot on their hearts and have learned how to just ignore feelings and keep going. On our retreats, we encourage the youth to step back from life and really look at what is going on in their hearts. We see a lot of stress from school, family life and friendships. It’s amazing what changes in a person when they not only recognize all of the burdens they carry but then are able to give it to the Lord and let the Father’s peace fill the holes in their hearts. I think that is the biggest impact: watching the peace of God flow over the youth.
When students look at the burdens of their hearts, we challenge them to recognize where God is loving them in that. A huge lie the youth of today face is that they are alone. So many of the students start off the day by saying how great their life is. When we ask them in small group what their relationship with Jesus looks like, they give us a list of things we want to hear. As soon as we challenge those words and ask what is really going on, some students break down and open up about all the weight they carry on their shoulders. The main goal of our LOVED retreat is to combat that by showing them not only how God loves them but also talking about how to accept that love as well.
What I love about SPIRITUS is that we not only have the opportunity to lead other souls to Christ, but we are really impacted by the ministry as well. I have learned a lot about myself this year. There are a lot of walls around my heart that I have put up throughout my life. I struggle to let myself need community; I have always wanted to be self-sufficient. I am finding out that there is a lot of loneliness that comes with not needing anyone. Still, I’m unsure of how to start letting my community in, but the important thing is I know that, as time goes on, I need to start--and SPIRITUS is a place I can trust with my heart.
I look forward to seeing how the Holy Spirit will work through me to bring the young people closer to God.
Kelsey Overland, Retreat Team
Most of the youth we encounter seem interested in the faith at a very minimal level. Often, they’re open to learning more, but they’re also pretty comfortable with where they’re at. So one of my favorite parts of giving retreats is getting to know the youth we work with. They really struggle with being too busy for anything outside of school and sports, so when they come to retreat, their hearts aren’t often in it right away. We pray that, above all else, they have open hearts during retreat, and we can tell when they’re truly letting themselves absorb what we talk about with them.
When we break off from the large group into small groups multiple times throughout a retreat, we get to see students open up little by little. Small groups are the best time to openly talk with their peers about where they’re at and truly discuss struggles and the reality they’re living. About halfway through the day, we have the opportunity to pray individually with each person in our small groups. That is when the Lord really works. There are some students who don’t share much, but most of the time, students are opening up to us in ways they feel they can’t with other people in their lives. We talk about school, friends, home life, the good and the bad. There are tears shed (in a good way) on every retreat without fail. Getting to be with them in that time and truly focusing in on their lives and how they see their faith is incredible. Getting to see hearts change, even just a little, is worth every minute. Feedback has been astoundingly positive! They pay far more attention than we think, and it’s really impacting them in amazing ways.
Coming into SPIRITUS, one of the main drives for me was knowing that I’d be challenging myself to grow during this missionary year. It’s crazy how much I’ve already changed! I find that an hour for Adoration is no longer enough time. I’ve finally reached Jesus on a more personal level--more than I ever thought I could.
I am so grateful for this ministry! Please keep us in your prayers.