“The hardest but best summer of your life” this came so true this summer. Before leaving and during training I heard this phrase more times than I can count. This summer changed my life in so many ways. I don’t even know how to start to explain them all but, here goes nothing. Here’s to the summer that changed me.
Training- It feels like training was forever ago but it was just the end of May. Joliet Diocese trained with about 4 other diocese for two weeks long. When I heard training was going to be two weeks long I dreaded how long it was. Training was intense, to say the least, but it flew by too fast. The first 24hrs of training was treated like a mini-retreat. Fr.Grismer gave us a talk and left us with these questions. We were asked to take a look at where you were in your life & to ask ourselves what is it we are asking Jesus to heal? These questions ended up being the foundation of training. The first 24hrs went fast and it was time to really start learning about what we were about to be doing for 7ish weeks. God began to break open my heart in ways I didn’t think were possible. He began to heal in those areas of my heart that were broken, messy and hurt. God wrecked me so much in a good way in just two weeks. We had mass, adoration, and confession every single day. I loved how we had mandatory adoration and also the chance to go to confession! Having all three of these every day was so powerful!
At the end of the first week of training, the Joliet Diocese went up to Lake Geneva for the weekend. Saturday morning we found out our teams. It kinda is funny how teams worked. I never thought I would be put on the team I was on. God placed us where we suppose to be this summer. I love my team and wouldn’t want to trade them for the world. Every team got a Chaplin and of course, God showing up again. My team’s Chaplin was Fr.Ryan. That weekend was so peaceful and was really good to get out of the retreat center. The second week of training was all about deciding who was teaching what and who was giving a talk on what. The second week was full of so many talks on how to teach classes, how to give a testimony, etc. Just like that training was done and we were heading to our first-week teaching.
We went to a total of 6 parishes. When people told me summer will go by in a blink of an eye I didn’t believe them. It was week one and I was telling myself I have 5 more weeks of this left and I didn’t know how I was going to survive 5 more weeks of teaching kids.
Week 1-St. Pius X
Week one was a trial in error week for sure. Week 1 I taught 3rd & 4th graders and I had the biggest class for the first week out of all of the grades. I fell in love teaching 3rd and 4th graders by the end of the summer. The first week teaching them was challenging for sure. The kids just kept asking questions which I loved even if I had to get back to them about the answers. It reminded me of what a childlike faith looked like. God taught me a lot about patience during week one. I am the most impatient person I know so it was funny how that happened to be what God wanted to teach me during week 1. I learned how to be patient with the kids and teens, my team and myself. Patience was a theme for sure this summer and God kept teaching me more about it. From hearing other people’s experiences from Totus Tuus I had this plan/idea how week one was going to be. It wasn’t the way I thought it would go but it was the way God planned it to be!
Week 2- The Cathedral of St. Raymond
When we found out what parishes we were going to I was so excited we were going to the Cathedral for a whole week! I love the Cathedral I can’t put it into words how grateful I was that we were there for a WHOLE WEEK! Every morning as a team we prayed the rosary in the Church and one of the first few days this lady asked to pray the rosary with us every day. It was a gift praying the rosary with her. I broke two rosaries week two in two days. On Friday the lady that was praying the rosary with us gave each of us rosaries. I laughed as I pulled out my rosary that Friday morning because it broke in my hands and God provides! A lot got brought up week two of my past of challenges, pains and hurts, etc. that I never realized affected me. I let God into the hurt and pain that was in my heart. Only God can heal me! I can’t do it alone. As I was reflecting on the different things that hurt me I learned that only God can satisfy me.
Week 3- St. Mary Nativity
Nobody told me how fast this summer would go. I was sitting in this Church in front of Jesus mid-week and I was speechless that we were halfway done with the summer. We had our biggest teen group week 3. It was beautiful watching so many kids go to confession on Tuesday night. That night I knew that I wanted to still become a youth minister. Watching the teens crack and grow from Sunday night to Thursday was an amazing gift. This week Louisa and I’s host family was about 20 minutes away from the parish and on our way to the Church and Home every day we jammed to Jesus songs and that was probably my favorite thing to end the night every day that week. It was the simplest and little things that made my day. Something that I learned week 3 was always make sure you are wearing shoes during the water fight. I stepped in glass during the water fight. The first 3 parishes flew by so fast! On Friday we met with our Chaplin before all of us went home for our week off. Let me tell you I cried leaving them. I loved my team so much! I wouldn’t have traded my team for anything.
Week 4- St. Matthew
Week 4 I had the chance to teach 1st and 2nd graders. They are so innocent and so cute! I love their childlike faith. The joy they spread is so contagious. Also, Emily thanks for coming to visit us week 4 and taking us to Starbucks! 1st and 2nd graders were challenging somedays more than others for me. Also, Tony thanks for coming to visit us too. This week was definitely learning that I don’t need to earn God’s love! We don’t deserve God’s love but He loves us so much! If it was only you on the earth He could still die for you! This summer I learned a lot about authentic love and the love of God. Week 4 I was struggling with my relationship with Mama Mary and one morning while praying the rosary everything clicked. She reminded me that even when I don’t think She is with me she is.
Week 5- St. Jude
As silly this picture is it probably is one of my favorites. You can definitely see all of our personalities. At the beginning of the summer, someone said at training is to be a fool for God and make sure you have fun. This picture shows both of those things. St. Jude was a hard week for me. Each week had their own challenges but St. Jude was one I remember being especially hard for me. Thank God Fr.Steve came and did mass for the kids twice this week. It was good to see a familiar face during a tough week. I learned this week that God’s love is so intimate it isn’t like any other kind of love. We aren’t in competition for God’s love. God choose me to do Totus Tuus this past summer. It was truly a gift choosing kids to bring up the offerings every day for mass. Whenever I picked who would bring up the gifts they were so excited to bring them up to Father. It was probably one of my favorite things to do all summer long. Often times kids don’t go to mass that often so the fact they got to participate in mass they were so happy about doing it. During my toughest weeks, I learned and stretched a lot looking back on this summer.
Week 6- Joan of Arc
The last and final week. This summer went so fast!! I was sad about starting the last week. I bonded with my team so well. Louisa and I had this amazing sisterhood. Cherish the time you have with people. At the beginning of this week, I was feeling off and didn’t really know why. When Tuesday rolled around I went to confession and felt a weight getting lifted off my shoulders. God’s grace is never-ending. At week 6 I took some time and realizing that I needed these people to be on my team. God placed them on my team for a reason. During one of the last few days of mass, Father gave a homily about we were apostles this summer. We planted seeds in all the people’s lives we touched. We often don’t see the fruits from the week. It was reassuring hearing that because Josh reminded me of that all summer long and trust me I needed to hear it. We got to see relics of St. John Paull II and St. Mother Teresa and that was an amazing experience. I cried seeing them.
I could talk about my team all day long but I am very thankful for them. They helped me grow, learn and stretch in ways that I didn’t think were possible. Thank you for loving me even when it was hard to love me. I miss them so much!
The Goodbye/see you later
I tried to prepare myself and try to hold myself together but there definitely were a lot of tears shed. My whole heart in one picture. On our last Friday, we all met together and had dinner, shared graces, challenges, etc from the whole summer. There were so many graces from this summer that God even is still teaching me about. I learned that it is okay to feel and to give yourself permission to feel and to forgive yourself. I did learn about my worth this summer in so many ways. Before starting this summer I looked in the world for my worth and that is not where I would find it. My worth lies in God and Him alone! My Joliet Diocese Fam, you guys have my whole heart. I am so glad I was able to share this experience with you all. Anna is going to kill me for putting this in here. This picture shows so much. I learned so much about myself because of her. Watching one another grow, learn and grief this summer has been a gift. If we weren’t put into Fr. Steve’s car going to training I don’t think we would be such good friends so thank you, Jesus, for that car ride. As soon as we tried to say goodbye to one another we both started bawling hardcore. Thanks for understanding my heart in ways I don’t understand it.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the people that made this summer possible. Fr. Steve & Ashley thank you for your time, energy, hard work, prayers and always being there for all of us. I can go on and on about how you have changed my life for the better but I will stop myself now. Fr. Ryan thank you for being an amazing Chaplin. Thanks for giving advice, praying for us, always being there and so much more! Emily, Joe, and Christian thank you for everything you did for us this summer. The littlest things meant the most to me. You all mean the world to me. At the beginning of the summer, they told us that this summer is going to change you in ways you won’t see coming and let me tell you that it is so true. This summer changed me in so many ways. I wouldn’t have wanted to trade this summer for anything. I truly know what Totus Tuus means on a personal level.
Totus Tuus for life.
Totus Tuus saves lives.