The past five years flew by in a blink of an eye. Youth Ministers, Bible, Blanket and BBQ, YLC Retreats, Steubenville, lock-ins, game nights, LifeTeen nights, shaving cream fights, praise and worship, you name it we probably did it…
The first time I ever heard about LifeTeen was a confirmation night. A few kids and one of the adult leaders came and talked to us about LifeTeen. At that moment I knew I wanted to join. I knew after I made my confirmation it was up to me to continue growing in my faith life. My friend Lauren and I texted each other and went to our first ever LifeTeen night. If it wasn’t for us to start going to LifeTeen I wouldn’t be who I am today. Thanks to Lauren for being my friend since the ole great elementary school days.
It feels like my first LifeTeen night was just yesterday. The first year I was in LifeTeen, I would only went when Lauren went. I was still a very shy person in eighth grade. That summer we went to Youth Leadership Conference (YLC) at Lewis University. It was my first ever “Jesus Conference”. I don’t remember much from it besides meeting one of my best friends (Sammy), learning about Jesus and singing christian songs, which back then I thought all these people were Jesus freaks and now look I call myself a “Jesus Freak.” At that point in my faith journey I didn’t know what it meant to live out my life for Jesus. I was slowly getting comfortable around all these new people. Over the next few months I slowly became more open and talked to the people who were there. I even started going to LifeTeen alone! (that was a big step for me) I knew my faith was important to me and wanted friends that believed in the same thing as me and wanted to know more about God.
I remember the exact moment that I felt like LifeTeen was my new home. It was a game night and we were playing volleyball. Hannah (adult leader and became our youth minister later) and I were on the same team and hysterically laughing on the ground about how we weren’t any good. That was when I felt so loved and welcomed by everyone. I knew it was going to be the place I went to feel safe. Little did I know how much it was going to change my life.
Freshmen year was kinda a blur until the summer. I went to LifeTeen when I could. Towards the end of the year I fully started going weekly alone and made amazing friends. That summer I went on the Summer Retreat all alone, without knowing anyone going. The first person I remember welcoming me into this LifeTeen family on this retreat was Hope. She loved me and wanted to get to know me. I learned what it meant to make God the center of my life. I prayed during retreat that Hannah and I would get closer and God sure answered that prayer for me!! We went to YLC that summer again too. After that summer I prayed more frequently. I broke out of my shell that year and was just myself. The people there accepted me for who I am. I met a few other great friends that year I am still friends with today. Megan, Hope, Elizabeth, Jaime and Kevin, ect.
Around Christmas time of freshmen year is when I opened to Hannah for the first time ever! She was one of the first people I have ever fully trusted. She has a secret power of knowing something is up without me saying anything. Hannah if your reading this I love you for that sometimes! She was someone who was always there for me and still is from afar. She is someone I look up and gives me great advice no matter what the situation is. She has always been there with a shoulder I can cry on and to give me amazing hugs. She has and still pushes me outside of my comfort zone and I am so grateful for that. I led small groups and gave about 4 testimonies and if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have the confidence for sharing my story with others. I could go on and on about her but we will leave that for another time. She has changed my life in so many ways! Thanks for being the person you are today, never change!!
Sophomore year Ryan Essington was our Youth Minister. We had an amazing adult core team that year too. You could say I had my doubts at first when He became our youth minister. He changed LifeTeen for the better. He created a Lead team, which was amazing. Lead helped run big events, taught LifeTeen nights and all the stuff in the middle. My faith life really became my own that year.
We went to Steubenville for the first time. We saw people rest during adoration and didn’t understand why. We heard many different amazing speakers and had adoration. We had a great prayerful experience. I really enjoyed going to mass and wanted more of Jesus.
Ryan brought a different view on LifeTeen. We loved what He taught us. He helped me grow in so many ways. That Summer he ran the retreat, The Wild Goose Retreat. To this day it is still talked about. The first night we played duck duck goose and thought Ryan was crazy but, I was going along with it. That retreat changed my life. I learned how to pray in a new way. We learned about charismatic prayer and it was uncomfortable at first but eventually I fell in love with it. It really helped me grow in my relationship with God and my prayer life.
Sophomore year was hard for me, when I heard we were going to have adoration I dreading it. We had adoration Saturday night our worship leader started playing and I started bawling and didn’t understand why. We had a prayer team come in and pray over us. It was a powerful experience to say the least. That was the first time ever I surrendered everything to God. I felt his presence for the first time. I felt loved and wanted for the first time in a long time. The Holy Spirit was on fire in all of us!! I fell in love with adoration after that retreat. After Retreat we were all on fire for Christ in a new way, we wanted more of Him. After Retreat Ryan taught us many different things about the Holy Spirit and how to use the fire inside us everyday.
Junior year was another challenging year for me. My Great Aunt passed away and school was tough. Not long after Ryan told us He was leaving and going back to school to become a funeral director. He changed my life and helped my grow in my relationship with God. He left in October. August to October flew by with Ryan. October was here before we wanted it to be. I didn’t want him to leave LifeTeen. Thanks to Ryan I know how to have my own personal relationship with God! We had worship nights, teachings, game nights, ect. I cherished those last moments left before Ryan left and went to school. Through the hard time of change I learned to cherish what is right in front of you because it could be gone in a blink of an eye.
After Ryan left, Hannah became our youth minister for good. Ryan left LifeTeen in such a great place and Hannah had another job and still gave LifeTeen all her energy. Lead team became more involved at LifeTeen. Lead began to do more of the teachings. We continued to have praise and worship nights even though Ryan wasn’t there. It was an important part of LifeTeen. She made sure LifeTeen was the best it could be. Junior year was challenging for me, it was a year to trust and learn for sure. LifeTeen was always there for me. There were so many people around me that I could go to. That year I had my solid catholic group of friends. They were sure a blessing from God. Junior year was full of emotions.
I remember finding out that Fr.David’s term was up at SMIP and was going to be reassigned to a new Church. Hannah planned on leaving too and go back to school. The school year ended and summer was in full swing. To be honest I dreaded that summer because I knew I was going to have to say another “goodbye” to the person that helped me through so much. I made the most out of those last few months though.
Hannah’s last “big thing” with us was our Summer Retreat. Lead helped plan it. It was a lot of work but totally worth it. The core team planned day after day to make it perfect for us! It sure was. I miss those lovely people that were on the core team. I got the chance to give my first ever witness talk… it sure was hard. Summer Retreat was beautiful and God gave us so many gifts and graces. That was one Jesus filled weekend. We got back to SMIP Sunday night and it was the goodbye part… let me just say I don’t think I stopped crying for awhile. It was emotional but, good that we ended on such a great place with Hannah leaving. I am glad we had an amazing weekend with her.
Deacon Ryan took over LifeTeen well now Fr.Ryan. At first I was dreading another new youth minister. Hannah told me I am leaving you in good hands and Wow she was SO RIGHT! He changed my life for the better. He brought this raw and honesty to LifeTeen. Having a Deacon run LifeTeen is crazy enough but, his authenticity brought a different aspect to it. I could listen to him talk all day long. He is freaking amazing! I learned so much from him during the 6ish months he was running LifeTeen. That time he was with us flew by so fast. He gave us the phrase “Live Life Intensely” and since that day it is stuck with me and changed how I live my life. I can go on and on about him but I’ll stop myself. The fact that he is a priest is amazing! I went to his first mass at his home parish and it was beyond beautiful! It is crazy that it has almost been a year since he’s been ordained.
During Fr. Ryan’s time at LifeTeen they were looking for someone to take over LifeTeen. We got a new youth minister senior year of high school. It felt like that year flew by in a blink of an eye. It felt like the last year went too fast. If I could do it all over again I wouldn’t change a thing. I am beyond blessed for my LEAD team friends that before I knew it became my best friends. Before I knew it I was graduating high school and planned on going to all the events LifeTeen for our last summer in LifeTeen. It was so good that all of us went to Steubenville and to the retreat. Im glad for our last two big events together were so good. It was hard to say goodbye to my best friends as most of them went away to school but I am glad I get to call them my best friends.
LifeTeen changed my life and I can go on and on about how it changed my life but all I have to say is thank you to everyone who was part of my journey and for always being there for me. Once you are part of LifeTeen you are always part of it. If It wasn’t for LifeTeen I wouldn’t be doing Totus Tuus this summer!
“The world will never be dark if we are on fire for Christ.”