I was thinking of sharing this post before, and then decided against it. But since April 6 is the day my sister was stillborn and it holds great significance, I thought I’d share. She’s still offering me hugs; they just don’t always happen like this.
In the months between getting laid off from my job and moving to Alabama in August (I did apply for the fellowship and was accepted), I did a lot of journal writing.
I filled four notebooks (averaging 70 pages each) in a matter of six months. Yes, I lived with pen and paper. So while I’m grateful to have some documentation of what I was going through at the time — what I felt, my worries and fears — what isn’t addressed is also quite telling.
So exactly two weeks after that NET retreat experience, I went to my job as normal. And my supervisor called me into her office. There, I was joined with our human resources representative.
Very matter of factly, my supervisor explained that today would be my last day. I was being laid off. They had decided to dissolve the “new business” sales team, redirecting everyone else into different positions. There was no need for me.
Being with the youth group was awesome and challenging. I gave a few talks and eventually lead some small group discussions. The talks were scary and I was certainly nervous the whole time, but I got up there and I did it. A few people made a pointed effort to thank me for sharing, no matter how raw the delivery was.
What I enjoyed most was being part of this community, having the opportunity to be involved in some way. I was learning more about my faith, and seeing it in action meant everything. I really reveled in the teens’ enthusiasm.
A few weeks before Easter 2007, I was using the photocopier at the newspaper and the editor came by to check his mailbox. We talked for a few minutes, and he again thanked me for a nice job with my piece for the Walk for Life.
He asked if I had plans to visit my family for Easter. Sadly, I told him no. This would be the second year in a row that I wasn’t able to spend this special time with my family. As a senior in college, I had participated on a retreat during Holy Week in Rhode Island.
I forget how the topic of conversation turned to my family in this way, but the editor acknowledged that my brother would be ordained a priest that summer. And he asked if I was interested in writing a piece about that for an upcoming special section on religious vocations, to write about what it’s like, this idea of having a priest in the family.
Today is a day of hope and joy as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It’s the day where Mary’s humble yes officially came into the world. The day where God entered our existence in person, flesh and blood. Entering in total poverty, without all the flash and power of a traditional king.
I marvel at the obedience and surrender that Mary and Joseph model for everyone. There was so much that didn’t seem to be going “according to plan” and yet they agreed and carried out what they had been called to do.
I finished college in four years. That wasn’t necessarily viewed as a major accomplishment. It was an expectation. You go to college and get a degree. There’s nothing extraordinary in that. And at this point in my life accomplishments required doing extraordinary things. Talk about setting the bar result high for yourself!
My brother Andrew is two years older than me, but he was three grade levels ahead because I repeated 4K.
He finished two years of college before deciding he felt called to be a priest. He made the decision to continue that discernment process by entering the seminary. So as I began my senior year of high school, he started seminary.
My parents and I had some indication this might be the right direction for him, so it wasn’t a total shock. But he was dating someone at the time, so he had to break that off.
I was very proud of my brother. Proud of him for taking such a big leap and giving himself a chance to see if this was the right path. I was proud of him for going through formation and receiving a proper education, more relevant for priestly responsibilities than what he would receive at a public university.
Unlike most of my classmates, what I looked forward to most about being on campus was not seeking out the parties. It wasn’t a desire for alcohol or all the other “benefits” of this newly discovered independence.
No, I wanted to learn, and that really meant learning more about my faith. I had a solid foundation of what I believed as a Catholic, but it was still very much just absorbing what I had been taught and taking things at face value instead of understanding things for myself.
Along with participating in the high ropes course, a major aspect of my experience with LifeTeen and the youth group was pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. This happened on a regular basis during 11th and 12th grades through lectoring at Mass.
One of the adult leaders made the rounds among the teens one night seeking recruits to be readers. I got guilted into signing up. Not because my friends jumped up to agree and I risked being left out. That wasn’t it at all. Hardly anyone stepped forward, and for some reason I felt responsible to fill in since no one else did. The people pleaser in me couldn’t resist the request from an adult. Or maybe it actually indicates some degree of leadership skills, taking on an undesirable task instead of waiting for someone else to do it.