It's a pretty cool thing to be able to say I was one of the 500(ish) people at the last national School of the New Evangelization; especially considering I would have never planned to have been there while I was in college.
I remember the first time I went to SNE in 2012. I was going into my junior year at Texas State, I was going into my first year of living in Household as a student (and it would turn out to be my only), and I had just finished my third summer as a camp counselor at The Pines Catholic Camp. I was really tan (those were the days), really happy to be back with all of my college friends on a crazy road trip from Texas to Minnesota, but really really wiped out.
Long story short: I came, I saw, anddddddd I didn't really have the best time. In fact, I have distinct memories of coming back from SNE that year and telling people, "Yeah, it was really cool and I learned a lot, but I just don't think that I'm called to be a missionary."
God has a sense of humor and I was lying to myself.
Looking back, I think that week is when the Lord first invited me to a life on mission with Him. But I wasn't open, or ready, or confident; I was terrified. I didn't believe in a good and merciful Father back then; I believed in an angry and disappointed Father whose love was conditional and merit-based - and that I'd never be able to 'earn' it. So the thought of following a Father like that, what I falsely thought He was, was terrifying. Therefore I shut the thought out and away and tried not to think about it, and I think that had an effect on how the rest of SNE went for me. I could have had a better time, I think, had I been more open to the Lord and to what He wanted for me.
But the Lord is good and He redeems all. Here I am, four years later, still going to SNE's, living a life that is way more exciting, joyful, and richer than I ever could have planned out for myself. As a missionary - the very thing I said I never wanted to be! Because He isn't limited by my weaknesses and He isn't satisfied by the mediocre plans I have for my own life. THANK GOODNESS.
All of this to say that I am so grateful that the School of the New Evangelization is still in my life, and that I now get to watch lives change from the other side of things, as a staff member. I remember telling my best friend four years ago that after college I'd hoped to be a photographer, and maybe a missionary, too. This year at SNE, the Lord let me do both at once! What a gift. Photographing an entire week-long conference by yourself (minus all of the men's sessions #thankgoodness) is no easy task; but I really enjoyed taking on this challenge that was unlike any photography job I'd ever had before. I was pushed creatively (and physically, let's be real, I was on my feet a lot and I am not a very strong gal) each day, figuring out new ways to capture old moments over and over again. I'm pretty proud of the final products. With the start of two SNE's a year happening next summer (you can read more about that here), it was truly an honor to get to capture all of the moments of this final SNE of its kind. All of the photos I took can be found on SPO's Flickr page, but in the gallery below you can find some of my favorite shots.
Another year of mission kicks into high gear this week, with Newman Center Leadership Day tomorrow and our Household move-in/retreat starting on Wednesday and extending into the weekend. Please pray for all of us, as the adventure of this year begins!
To Jesus Through Mary,
My name is Rebecca. This blog is a documentation of my life as a missionary with Saint Paul's Outreach - in Minnesota, Florida, and everywhere in-between. Thanks for stopping by!