I think this last summer was one filled with sharing in the cross of Jesus. I say this not as a way to complain about my team or that the parishes were all unpleasant and unwelcoming. I say it rather because that is what the Lord put on my heart and put on my body as well. I was sick multiple times this summer, and I felt very downtrodden because of it. My own interior self was suffering as well with doubts of how everything was going to get done and how my team would handle being down a leader. I also lost some consolations in prayer that I was used to receiving. However, there is still joy in carrying the cross. Though I felt empty, I was filled each day anew by the Eucharist and the grace of prayer, and I had some great moments that let me know that what we were doing was fruitful, and it needed to be done. There were times with the kids and with my teammates where I saw God working in them, and knew that though we toil, our toil was not in vain this summer. The line that we kept coming back to was, “we are fools for Christ,” from 1st Corinthians, and thank goodness we weren’t expected to be anything more.
I came into Duc In Altum this summer with two core desires: to give back to the Church, and to have the adventure of a lifetime. God fulfilled both of those desires, but I never could have imagined all He’d do. You see, I’ve spent the first 20 years of my life in California, and the last 3 years in Arizona. I had never set foot in South Dakota. This was all new territory for me.
Every week and every day, I encountered God’s love – not only in the Church, but also in the new faces, families, communities, adventures, and experiences. There were many moments where I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I get paid to do this.” Moments like sitting on a paddleboard in Timber Lake with the teens while the sunset blinded me. Moments like soaring over the open ranges of Lemmon in a plane while receiving free flying lessons. Moments like seeing the eyes of a child light up when he learned about Jesus in the Eucharist. Or moments like sharing tears with a teen when she connected with my testimony. There are too many moments to recount here.
This summer I encountered God in the generous hearts of so many of His people. Never had I felt so welcomed and loved. God showed me what true love looks like. Not just the “fluffy” kind of love, but the backbreaking, self-sacrificing kind of love. The kind that gives of herself even when she is exhausted and doesn’t feel like it. Real love.
I encountered Him in the unknown. Just having graduated college, God was whispering to me this summer, asking me to trust Him with my future. Every week He taught me more about what trust looks like. As we traveled home to home, at times I felt like Mary and Joseph. I gave up most of the control and independence I had developed in college, and I trusted that we would have a place to stay and meals to eat, even when I didn’t know what that looked like. I began to learn the beauty in just trusting and receiving. Even when things in my personal life were seemingly falling apart, God reminded me that just as He was exceedingly providing for me this summer, He would continue to do so. Every day we had a holy hour in front of the Eucharistic presence of Jesus, and I sat there and let myself be held by Him. Despite the highs or lows of the day, I ran to the Eucharist daily, and His graces permeated me. I noticed an interior strength and trust I had not seen before.
Overall, my encounter with God this summer could be summed up in the words, “love” and “trust.” Every week, as God continued to cover me in His love and call me to trust Him, my heart was being transformed. I can only pray that this transformation was being bled upon all the young people I interacted with.If I impacted any of these young people, it was not with my lessons; it was with my relationships with them. For God to transform their hearts, He had to transform mine. He is still at work in me, and He is still at work in them. I may never see these young people again, but I can trust that the seeds that were planted will continue to be nourished by new gardeners. As it turns out, God is so much bigger than California, or Arizona, or even South Dakota. God is alive, and so is His Church, my friends.Thank you for allowing me to tend to and be nourished by your garden. For the greater glory of God!
While serving the Lord this summer through Duc in Altum, I grew and was blessed in ways that I wasn’t expecting at all. Going into the summer, I felt that I was being called to Duc in Altum so that God could continue forming me into the man that he is calling me to be. Almost every single day, I was given challenges and experiences that tested my limits and my patience, but ultimately made me a stronger person each time. I was reminded this summer that in order to live a life in God, your life must be grounded in prayer. By maintaining our team’s schedule and commitment to prayer, I felt my heart becoming more aligned to Christ’s.
The Lord gave me a profound love for the Eucharist this summer. As we traveled the diocese and encountered Christ in countless new experiences and people, I really came to rely on our uniquely Catholic gift: the Eucharist. In a summer of constant change from Rapid City to Timber Lake to Ft. Pierre and beyond, I was always able to rely on the same Jesus in the Eucharist through adoration and the Mass. God gave our team the opportunity to travel the diocese and form meaningful connections at every turn. He even fulfilled a longtime dream of mine — to fly a private plane — on TWO separate occasions (it was incredible)!! Now I am coming back to college — a world that is far from the Catholic “bubble” that I experienced this summer. But, after all of the experiences that I had this summer, I feel equipped and ready to bring Christ to the depths, wherever he leads me.