My time with SPIRITUS has been such a blessing for me. It is such a gift to have the opportunity every day to go to Mass, to go to Adoration, and to learn more about Jesus Christ through scriptures. It’s amazing! During this time of my life, Jesus continues calling me to immerse myself into His divine love. When I am in prayer, He reminds me that I am His beloved son. Praying to God in different ways, specifically in the ways I mentioned above, has helped me to grow in a very intimate relationship with Him and with the saints, especially with St. Padre Pio, St. Jude, St. Rita of Cassia and the Sorrowful Mother of God.
SPIRITUS Ministries invests spiritually and professionally in each one of its missionaries. For instance, they often invite priests or lay people to share with us about spiritual and missionary life in our Catholic Church. I feel privileged by the opportunity that SPIRITUS has given me this last year to continue working, serving and learning as a youth minister intern in three different parishes in the Fox Valley: St. Mary Parish in Greenville and St. Mary and St. John the Baptist Parishes in Menasha.
Currently, I live in community with five missionaries from different parts of the United States. We live at St. Bernadette rectory in Appleton with Fr. Don Zuleger and Fr. John Thorsen. Living in community has been a great experience for me.
I like being a missionary. There is so much to learn from every person I encounter. It feels great when I finish leading a retreat and am able to see the students full of joy, willing to say yes to Jesus in their life journeys. Giving retreats gives me a lot of hope; I am able to see a positive future for our Church.
Our retreats have really been touching the youth we serve. I remember on one retreat a student came to me during one-on-one prayer and shared with me that he felt lonely and wanted to pray with me. We prayed together, and I helped this student to bring everything to Jesus’ cross. Afterwards, it was pretty easy to see how God was working in this student’s life. I love praying for people. SPIRITUS Ministries is giving me this great opportunity to serve others.
Thank you for all you have done to make SPIRITUS Ministries possible and for changing my life.
René Martínez, Servant Leader and Youth Ministry Intern
It is hard to believe the year is half over. My missionary life has continued to be a life-changing time for me and for the Catholic youth whom I have been serving. My time has been focused on prayer, formation, community, and ministry. My spiritual life has really taken off this year as I grow deeper and deeper in my relationship with Christ. Last year on SPIRITUS, a major obstacle I faced was fostering that desire to just pray and be with Jesus. Although we spent over two hours a day in prayer--and I even had some profound moments in prayer--I still viewed it as something I needed to be doing instead of something I enjoyed doing.
Currently, I've had an increasing desire to just spend time with our Lord and have been able to connect with Him more and more in my day-to-day life. I've gotten into a better habit of praying a morning offering first thing when I wake up. I really have been absorbing the readings during my time spent in Mass. I have even been able to really connect with Christ’s Passion and turn to Him in my sufferings. I can tell that SPIRITUS has really shaped my prayer life and, therefore, has transformed my entire life as I continue to fall in love with Christ and “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17).
Another part of the ministry that I find impactful is the community that we have with one another as a team. I have so many wonderful and powerful memories of team prayer, and times when we just lovingly came together and supported one another when we were struggling. The love between us is so strong and rooted in Christ.
Our retreats have also been really touching the youth we serve. On our retreats, we missionaries have the opportunity to talk and pray with the students one-on-one. One student expressed to me that she was having self-esteem issues and didn’t think she was pretty. I was looking into her deep blue eyes and said, “It’s interesting that you say that because I was just about to say that you have some of the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.” She seemed really surprised at my words but I can tell that they really touched her heart and maybe gave her a little more confidence in herself. She even wanted a hug by the time we were done praying together! When she walked away, I looked up at the Divine Mercy image hanging in front of me and then looked into Jesus’ eyes and thanked him for the wonderful opportunity to be a part of SPIRITUS. My eyes filled with tears as gratitude overflowed from my heart. Moments such as that one remind me why I am here in Wisconsin so far from my Florida home: to be God’s instrument and touch the lives of young Catholics. As Mother Teresa said, “I am a little pencil in God's hands.”
Thank you for continuing to pray for SPIRITUS, we will continue to pray for you.
Heather Kealhofer, Servant Leader
SPIRITUS has really helped me grow in my prayer life. My prayer has been an amazing time to be with the Lord. As a SPIRITUS missionary, I have been able to do a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament about five times a week, and this has helped me grow in my relationship with Jesus and in knowledge of His love for me. In turn, I am able to share Jesus’ love with the youth on retreat and help them with their relationships with the Lord. Prayer is a great way of being able to let go of the busyness of the day and take time to slow down and quiet down. It is a great way to be able to take a breath and to receive what God wants to give you.
Community has also helped me to grow. My brother and sister missionaries have helped me attain greater awareness and knowledge of myself. They allow me to see places in my life where I can develop better habits. They also help me to experience the joy in everyday life when we share jokes and stories. My favorite times with my community are when we are able to just spend time together and grow in deeper relationship. My fellow missionaries encourage me to see what gifts God has given to me to share with others--especially the youth on retreat. Community can be hard once in a while, but at the same time, I wouldn’t want to do this mission without my brother and sister missionaries.
Our retreats have really been touching the youth we serve. One way that I have witnessed this is through one-on-one prayer. I have many stories of youth opening their hearts during our individual prayer time with them. On one occasion, in particular, a teen came to pray with me and another team member. We started off our prayer by just talking, and during this time, she opened up. We talked extensively about what she needed support in. It was amazing to hear all she was holding on to and trying to help her through her struggles. By the end of our time together, we were both in tears. During other times of one-on-one prayer, I have been blessed to do the same thing as I did for the teenage girl mentioned above. So many students I have prayed with just need someone to talk to, someone to listen to their concerns and their joys. The youth of our time struggle with so much and they desire to be heard and feel treasured.
I really look forward to continuing to serve the Catholic youth throughout Wisconsin.
Toni Rudiger, Servant Leader
Life as a missionary has been challenging and stretching me in such beautiful ways. As a SPIRITUS missionary, I have the opportunity to spend an hour in adoration at least five times a week as well as attend daily Mass and prayer each morning. This time set aside from the busyness of the world outside my door has helped me grow in my relationship with Jesus and to grow in knowledge of His love for me. Growing in this relationship enables me to better share my life and faith with the youth I encounter in this ministry and to help them grow in their relationship with the Lord. This routine of prayer has been a great way to slow down and notice the gift of this life and appreciate the blessings all around me.
I am so blessed to be a part of a retreat ministry that really touches the lives of Catholic youth in a unique way. Students encounter the Lord in many ways during their retreat, but one area in particular in which I have seen “God moments” has been through my fellow missionaries’ witnesses and testimonies. Through the personal witnesses of Christ working in the lives of the missionaries, students can really relate to the struggle or triumph of the missionary and start to see how Jesus was present in it all. One example of this moment was when my brother-in-Christ shared a time he was struggling with knowing if there was a purpose for his life and if God really existed. He then went on to show how the Lord placed peers in his life to show him their faith and to guide him to further explore his own faith life and to find answers to the deep questions he was asking. This situation really resounded with many of the teens, who often ask what their role is in this life and if there is a God out there listening to them. Seeing the students realize that they are not alone and that others have found answers through the Church gives them a deep sense of hope.
I am looking forward to seeing what God has planned for me during the second half of my missionary year!
Gina Rosso, Youth Ministry Intern
I have experienced so much in my short time as a SPIRITUS missionary and Youth Ministry Intern. As one of the youth ministry interns, I have been able to grow so much in ministering to the youth at Sacred Heart Parish in Appleton. One of my biggest God moments of the year so far was when one of the youth at my parish who has a hearing impairment said she really wanted to go to the St. John Bosco Day event held in the Diocese of Milwaukee. I called the priest in charge of the event to make sure there would be signers at the event for her to be able to follow along. Until this year, St. John Bosco Day has never had a signer present. Now, the priest told me, they will make sure there is a signer present from here on out.
Another really great aspect of our time at SPIRITUS is the community that we have. We have bonded so much and very quickly. My fellow missionaries are truly my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I could not be happier with the group of humans that God has called to serve together this year. We are constantly calling each other to a higher standard, which has helped us all to grow in patience and love for one another. We aren’t afraid to call each other out on our mistakes in a loving way to help each other grow.
Speaking of growing, the youth we encounter on our retreats have really been touched by God, and the retreats are sparking a deeper growth in their faith. Our Confirmation retreat is the most popular retreat that we give, and one of the sessions that we offer during this retreat is about the Mass. After hearing about Eucharistic miracles in this session about the Mass, my small group shared that they had never heard about these miracles. They were intrigued and inspired to have a greater reverence for the Eucharist. We continued talking about Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist and how special it is to receive Him at Mass. We went to Mass shortly after this conversation and our encounter with Jesus was amazing. Before they left the retreat, several of them shared with me that that was their favorite conversation on retreat.
I am so excited to continue to serve the Catholic youth in Wisconsin!
Meg Seamann, Youth Ministry Intern
Wow! My, I can't believe I am already half-way through my second year with SPIRITUS. Serving as the campus minister for St. Mary Catholic High School, I have had an amazing opportunity to work closely with many high school students. This ministry has taught me more about what it really means to reach the youth where they are at and lead them to Christ. They have had as much of an impact on me as I have had on them! While sharing my faith with them, they help me see it from a different point of view, since they come from all walks of life. From the deep questions they’ve asked to their dedicated devotion to the Blessed Mother, I am quickly learning that there is more depth to their faith lives than I had thought!
I have also come closer to the Lord as He continually calls me deeper into Himself. He is gently showing me my weaknesses and faults so that I may work on them and grow in sanctity, humility, and understanding of myself. I know that my Heavenly Father has so much in store for me for this year. He has made it evident that He loves me too much to leave me as I am. Instead, He is purifying me to raise me to greater heights, preparing me to do His will as we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer. I am overwhelmed with His mercy and grace as He brings a healing to my soul that I can see in my life. “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you” (1 Peter 5:10).
Our retreats have really been touching the youth we serve. One particular instance I encountered recently was with a young girl who, though attending a Catholic school, had no faith present in her family life. While praying with her she began to cry as she lifted up her suffering relatives to the Lord and felt hope that He would take care of them. She later expressed the desire to be baptized and make her life one of faith and trust in God. This is but one of many profound experiences and deeper conversions of heart I have witnessed while working with students of all ages on SPIRITUS retreats.
I am so grateful for this opportunity to act as an instrument to share God's Word.
Gabriel Ogle, Youth Ministry Intern
As SPIRITUS missionaries, we dedicate two hours each day to prayer when we are not on retreat. We go to daily Mass as well as pray a holy hour at 3:15 PM which consists of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Evening Prayer, and personal time with the Lord. This is when we are able to just be with Christ and bask in all His glory that is humbly present in the little host.
Our retreat ministry is a great way to serve the Lord and be like Jesus to all whom we meet. One of my favorite aspects of going on retreat is one-on-one prayer. This is a time when the SPIRITUS missionaries have the opportunity to pray with our retreatants individually. During this time, many of the retreatants are more open to sharing some of the struggles that they are going through, and it is a privilege for us to love them where they are at, wounds and all, just as Christ loves us.
Another great aspect about the SPIRITUS community is that we not only have the opportunity to lead other souls to Christ, but we also have the opportunity to receive formation ourselves. We are privileged to receive spiritual direction once a month, as well as, formation with our chaplain, Fr. Schuster, and many other priests and religious, weekly. These formation sessions really allow us to grow deeper in our faith as we grow in our relationship with Christ.
Living in community is a large part of the SPIRITUS mission. It has really helped me to grow as a person, especially when it comes to loving others for who they are and where they are at in life. We are all Catholics striving to grow in our relationship with the Lord and share it with others, and it is a blessing to live in a community that helps to foster this goal. We were recently able to attend the Gianna Molla Gala in Green Bay where the daughter of St. Gianna Molla spoke to us about her mission of promoting the dignity of every human person from conception to natural death. I had the wonderful opportunity, during the summer 2017, to visit Saint Gianna’s Maternity Home in North Dakota. This is a place that houses single mothers who are struggling to support their children. Having that previous experience made going to the Gala with my team even more powerful.
Scott Peters, Retreat Team
Missionary life with SPIRITUS is focused on prayer, formation, community, and ministry. I have already grown in all of these areas in my time here. Our daily schedule includes various times throughout the day when we pray together. We do morning and evening Liturgy of the Hours and attend daily Mass and Holy Hour. Having these opportunities of set prayer in my schedule helps me stay focused on Christ. We read a book as a team titled Essence of Prayer which taught me to have a much deeper prayer life.
As a community of missionaries, we spend time together as we prepare for and lead retreats. We also have the ability to sprinkle in time for fun together. On one recent day off, we took a trip together to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This was an amazing opportunity to experience the beauty of autumn and bond with my teammates hiking up Mount Sugarloaf. It is fun times like these that have really helped me grow closer to my brother and sister missionaries.
I have seen multiple times how our retreats have really touched the youth we serve. One evening when we arrived for Faith on Fire, one of our “mini-retreats,” the students seemed really quiet and closed off. As the evening progressed, they began to become energized by what we were talking about. We had the opportunity to pray with those students through one-on-one prayer, something we do on many of our retreats, as we missionaries pray individually with students, offering up any intentions that they might have.
During one individual prayer session, I had a student open up to me about some serious issues she had going on in her life. She told me she often felt very alone in these sufferings. I was able to remind her that Christ is always there with her and that, even when she felt no one else understood her, He knew her heart. I could tell how that moment of prayer encouraged her, and that she would move forward knowing she could turn to Christ in her struggles.
I am blessed to be a part of this ministry and look forward to the next four months with SPIRITUS.
Megan Thieme, Retreat Team
I have been given many opportunities for growth in both prayer and ministry over these months of missionary living.
I am so blessed that the leadership of SPIRITUS schedules time into our days for prayer. And a lot of it! We start our work days by praying Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours as a community and go to Mass almost every day. At noon, we pray the Angelus as a team (along with the staff members) before lunch. Five days a week, we also take time for a Holy Hour, an hour of praying in God’s presence whether in the chapel at Mt. Tabor Center or in an adoration chapel or church elsewhere. I am grateful that we have so much time for prayer each day. As the saying goes, you can’t give what you don’t have. In order to inspire Catholic youth to grow in their faith and in their relationship with their Creator, each SPIRITUS member needs to be growing in their own relationship with God each day.
The majority of our ministry is in the form of retreats that SPIRITUS puts on for youth in 2nd through 12th grade, but we also lead other types of events. For example, some of the SPIRITUS team members (myself included) facilitate a group for high school students called Teen Disciples. Twice a month, teens are able to come to this group to have fun, eat snacks, and grow as a Catholic community. Evangelizing the youth involves more than talking about Catholicism - we also need to show them an example of what it means to joyfully live out our faith (which involves having some fun, of course!).
Our retreats really do touch the youth we serve. We can see this in person as we take the time to talk to, pray with, and have fun alongside the students on our retreats. For example, one of the non-Catholic students on a retreat expressed a strong desire to be baptized! We can also see the impact we have through reading the evaluations that every student and chaperone fill out regarding the retreat they attended. Many of the student evaluations I have read mention that the retreat was life-changing or eye-opening for them. And a couple of students on a recent retreat rated the retreat overall as a 10 or 12...on a rating scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the best)!
Please keep our ministry in your prayers.
Amanda Van Der Linden, 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 of Wisconsin. This has been a life changing experience for me. I have grown in many ways! Being a part of this mission I have grown in my prayer life, community life, formation, and ministry.
As a part of the SPIRITUS family, we spend around two hours of our day in prayer with the Lord at Holy Mass and Adoration. This has helped me grow in my spiritual life and having a better relationship with Jesus. Being part of this community has really helped me learn how to love my brothers and sisters more. Not just my brothers and sisters on the team but my own siblings. Learning how to love them when it is hard and to be more patient with others. Which has helped me be able to give more of myself.
The retreats that we put on have really been working with the youth we serve, seeing the Holy Spirit open up the hearts of the kids is very beautiful. Watching the kids grow in their faith is an incredible blessing even though we are with the youth for such a short time. An example of this is when a student was very grateful that I prayed with him one-on-one. He thanked me multiple times and shook my hand afterward. I just smiled and thanked God for leading me to SPIRITUS.
I am so grateful for your support. I will keep all in my prayers.
Phillip Griffith, Retreat Team
It has been a life-changing time for me and for the Catholic youth whom I have been serving. It feels like I have grown so much from my missionary life focused on prayer, formation, community, and ministry. The wonderful opportunities I have to love and learn from my brothers and sisters in Christ are amazing. I trust we were all brought together for each other and that we each have something to teach one another. For example, a missionary here taught me that grilled cheese with melted chocolate chips tastes absolutely delicious, and another missionary taught me to be unafraid to be authentically myself. Truly, in community, I’ve found that there are so many opportunities to become a saint by choosing love and that no task is “too hard” or “tedious.” This ministry continues to prove how the Holy Spirit is guiding it. Every retreat reminds me of just how immense God’s love is for humanity. This ministry is helping me become even more aware of the immense love and mercy God has and how He wants to call everyone back to Himself. It is such a gift to simply be an instrument of His voice and to call the youth to more and teach them that they are loved by God.
When I think about the beautiful work this ministry is accomplishing, there's a specific retreat that comes to mind. It was a confirmation retreat, and the students came in a bit sleepy, not really knowing what to expect. Throughout the day, they became more open, and my small group admitted they hadn’t gone to confession in a long time but really wanted to now that they knew from our witnesses what a beautiful sacrament it is. However, there was no priest available during the retreat to hear their confessions, and they were a bit sad. Then right before the retreat ended, a visiting priest came, and we were told he was available for confession. My small group all turned to me, their faces in shock. Overjoyed, they quickly got up from their seats and sprinted towards confession! They came back glowing and smiling from ear to ear. Later, I found out one of the students hadn’t gone to confession in four years. It was a beautiful experience to see just how these teenagers opened their hearts to Jesus and received so much love and mercy.
Alondra Almader, Retreat Team
My time as a missionary with being able to spend time in reflection and daily adoration has especially been a blessing. I am able to hear the voice of Christ in a new way--a whisper of love and encouragement during times of silence. It is so fulfilling to have time alone with Our Creator and hear Him remind me of His presence in and around me. The time we are blessed with in adoration truly provides the strength needed to remind us all of our value and true identity in Christ.
The opportunity to live in community has also been wonderful! I have the privilege of living at the Faustina House with three other loving, kind, and caring sisters in Christ who are all in pursuit of Jesus’ Sacred Heart. They support, challenge, and encourage me to grow closer to Jesus as we carry out the SPIRITUS mission.
Our retreats have really been touching the youth we serve. My favorite retreat experiences occur when the students are reminded of the fact that the Creator of the Universe wants to speak to them. When the retreatants realize that the Catholic faith is based on a relationship of Jesus’ true love and unending compassion, their entire world shifts. It is so humbling to see the Holy Spirit come into their brokenness to remind them of Christ’s desire to be with them through anything. I have met many young ladies who are experiencing loneliness or mental struggles very similar to what I have faced growing up in today’s culture. Being able to lead these beautiful young women to the Truth of the Cross has been such a privilege.
I look forward to seeing how the Holy Spirit will work through me to bring the young people closer to God.
Katie Krantz, Retreat Team
It has now been four months since I began my mission with SPIRITUS and it has been an extraordinary period of unexpected gifts. It seems as though I just began this mission, but at the same time, it feels like I have been doing it forever. I still cannot believe that this is my job each and every day. Two years ago, I would not have expected that this ministry is something that I would have wanted to be a part of, but here I am. It is such a blessing that God thought I was worthy enough to minister to our Catholic youth through SPIRITUS.
My community is helping me grow by showing me Christs’ love in day-to-day activities. They show me His love as we plan and discuss retreats and other events for the youth, as we complete our daily duties, and as we share our thoughts and emotions. Although we sometimes find living in community difficult, we are all growing with one another and teaching each other valuable lessons that we will carry on for the rest of our lives. In addition, the ministry that we do is helping me grow in many ways as well. As I minister to the youth, I am learning more about my faith and how to explain and describe why I believe what I believe. It is also helping me be able to meet the students where they are. I am now better able to give the students what they need and not necessarily what I think they need. All of these things are helping shape me into the person that God wants me to be, and I could not be more grateful.
In these past four months, I have been on a lot of different retreats, and each one has taught me valuable lessons. The most important lesson that I have learned is that our youth need these retreats. I can say with complete confidence that these retreats are very impactful to the youth we serve. One of the most powerful moments that showed me how valuable our mission is, occurred a couple of weeks ago. There was a particular student in my small group who did not seem very open to Jesus, but as we continued throughout the retreat, I saw him open up little by little. In each small group, as the day progressed, he began to share more and more about his life and his struggles. On each retreat, we have a time called one-on-one prayer, and it is a time when we sit and pray individually with each of the students in our small group. We ask each student how they are doing and if they have any prayer intentions. We then pray for each of those intentions out loud with them. This is a beautiful moment in our retreats because the students really let their guards down and simply let God love them, sometimes for the very first time in their lives. I prayed with this particular student, and he had tears in his eyes at the end of the prayer. I did not expect that at all because he was one of those young men who refused to show emotions, but in those moments, he let go and allowed himself to be vulnerable. I knew that in the moments that I prayed with him, he was finally able to feel God’s love. It was such a beautiful gift to be there with that student.
I am so grateful for this opportunity and for everyone who helps support this mission! Thank you.
Julia Hernandez, Retreat Team
I have been blessed this year with so much prayer time, I’ve been blessed with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I’ve been blessed, of course, with the formation we have!! This has helped me grow to be more patient with others and has deepened my love for the Eucharist.
So, while being on SPIRITUS, we serve the youth, of course! I have had many powerful experiences. I would like to tell you about every single one, but I have one in mind that stands out (maybe some other time I can share more of my stories with you since I love sharing stories)! About a month ago, six of us SPIRITUS team members traveled to Racine, WI. It was a long week of waking up very early, and this was our last retreat before a well-earned prudent day of rest. On the way to Racine, I heard God say, “Kenny, I have someone I want you to meet.” And, of course, I answered him and said, “Let your will be done, Lord.” We arrived at the Retreat location and one girl came about 20 minutes late and she looked very upset. She was put in my small group, which was such a blessing!!! Throughout the day, she stated that she did not believe in God and she did not believe in herself. That tore me up! Then one-on-one prayer came along, and it was life-changing for both her and me. She opened up about what was going on in her life. And I was able to console her and give her advice. I gave her my personal rosary which was my father’s, but God told me she needed it. Later, she wrote SPIRITUS and said she would do this retreat over and over again, that she was grateful for us, and that her life was changed simply by us being there and helping her realize she can count on God!
Please continue to pray for SPIRITUS and the students we encounter on retreats.
Kenny Snider, Retreat Team
Living in community has taught me a lot about how to live for others and to put the needs of my brothers and sisters in Christ above my own. At SPIRITUS, we are like one big family. It has filled me with great joy to be able to grow closer with my fellow missionaries and staff members and to learn more about what it means to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The ministry itself has taught me a great deal, too. Sometimes it is difficult to find words to communicate the truths of the Faith or to know how to relate to kids who come from so many different backgrounds. My time at SPIRITUS has given me the chance to be able to practice telling stories from my own faith journey and has allowed me to grow in knowledge and a better understanding of the Church’s teachings. Furthermore, through prayer and advice from my brother and sister missionaries, I’ve been able to better articulate the reasons for the hope that we have as Catholics. It gives me great joy to be able to share this hope with others.
Our retreats have really been touching the youth we serve. A few weeks ago at one of our Faith on Fire formation nights, I had the opportunity to lead a small group that consisted of sixth-grade boys. Earlier in the night, a passage from the Gospel was read of when Jesus had an interaction with a tax collector named Zacchaeus. At the end of the reading, it says that the Lord said to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9). Most of the boys did not know what the word “salvation” meant, so I explained it in terms I thought they could understand by talking about the word “salve” and the link between a healing balm for a wound on our body and how the blood of Christ heals the wounds of our soul. It was the Holy Spirit who was doing His work, because one of the boys responded, “We need Jesus!”
I have been so blessed that the Holy Spirit led me to SPIRITUS and look forward to seeing what He has planned for me over the next months.