By Savannah Siegler ’14 (Catholic Studies and English)
One of my favorite classes at St. Thomas was The Catholic Vision with Dr. Kidd, where I learned a lot of interesting things about Augustine, The Gospel of John, philosophy and personal narratives. But the most important thing that I took away from that class was the idea that God speaks to each of us in the particular lives that we live, communicating His love through our families, friends, and experiences of joy and suffering. This idea is simple, but so incredible at the same time, especially now as I prepare to graduate from St. Thomas (yikes!) and think about all the people, circumstances and blessings that have allowed me to be a student here. I have also been reflecting on where the Lord is leading me next as a FOCUS missionary.
What is FOCUS? In a nutshell, The Fellowship of Catholic University Students is an outreach program where missionaries meet college students where they are at in their faith journeys, inviting them into a deeper relationship with Christ that will ideally continue and grow throughout their lives. We do a lot of awesome (and scary) things like bear-handing—going up to strangers and presenting the Gospel Message—and fundraising our salaries (did I say scary…). But every missionary I have met is full of the joy, and I (along with Tommie of the Year Brandon Miranda!) am so excited that the Lord is calling me to be one of them.
So how did I get here? For starters, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher especially after sixteen years of Catholic education. Junior year, my plan was to apply for the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program at Notre Dame, a Master’s program in Education which involves taking classes in the summer and teaching at under-resourced Catholic schools during the school year. Once Senior began I started thinking and planning more seriously—I had a timeline all set, a list of people to ask for recommendations ready, and a GRE date scheduled. Everything seemed ready but as I looked at all my lists and notes I had a feeling that maybe this wasn’t what I was supposed to do. Since I had already signed up for the GRE I decided that I would keep going with the process, but I told Jesus that if he wanted to direct my efforts somewhere else He had permission to do so.
About a week later I was having dinner with my friend Emma whose sister happened to be a FOCUS missionary. I told her about my not being sure about ACE anymore and she told me I should consider applying to be a missionary—there was even an interview weekend at St. Thomas so if my application was accepted I wouldn’t have to travel anywhere. The Lord knows me well. The next morning I looked at the FOCUS website and realized that the applications for the St. Paul interviews were less than a week away—yikes! If I was going to apply, I was going to do it right then. And, with a lot of encouragement and support from my friends I finished my application and submitted it on the feast of St. Therese of Liseux, patron of missionaries and of FOCUS.
My application was accepted and the interview weekend was beyond anything I could have imagined. All the other applicants were so energetic and holy and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with them. While everything had happened rather quickly, I couldn’t help thinking that there was something there for me. Friday night consisted of some solid talks and a great meal at Buca di Beppo, but Saturday was the big day. Because of the surplus of applicants my first interview wasn’t until 3:00 pm which meant that I had a lot of free time. We were in Sitzmann Hall, which has become like a second home to me during my time in Catholic Studies, and I had about three hours to pray in the Albertus Magnus Chapel before my interview. I asked the Lord so many times why He had brought me here—FOCUS definitely had not been on my radar and I knew if they asked me why I wanted to be a missionary I wasn’t going to have a coherent answer. I told Jesus that if He wanted me here He was going to have to give me the words to say, and he did. Both of my interviews were not only really awesome, but also tons of fun (and two of the interviewers added me on facebook, they must have enjoyed it too!). I left that weekend with the inner peace that I had been waiting for.
The next two weeks were a little nerve-wracking as I waited for a call from FOCUS. Finally on a Monday morning I was offered a position as a missionary. My parents weren’t thrilled at the idea, and because I value their opinion so much, it was a difficult decision. In fact, I really wanted to say no at that point. I remember my friend Gemma sitting at my kitchen table with me telling me that I should just say yes. I decided to trust her, and while it was scary at first, I’m glad I did. This was the feast day of Blessed Chiara Badano whose motto is ‘For you, Jesus’, which I want to adopt during my missionary work.
I had some doubts until January when I prayed a novena to St. Therese. I know that God loves for us to make decisions and wants us to trust Him, but I needed a concrete sign with this one. So one freezing-cold afternoon I went to the St. Paul Cathedral and prayed at the Sacred Heart of Jesus altar where he had three beautiful sunny-yellow roses waiting for me—His simple and sweet answer to my prayers.
It’s been such an incredible and unexpected journey getting to this point and the Lord has been revealing to me more and more that He really has given me a heart for this mission. As I look ahead to the next two years I can’t help but look back on the last four with gratitude. College is a transition time for all of us, especially here at St. Thomas where so many students travel from all over the country only to return to those places—or others– once their education is complete. I don’t think we can help but be changed by this experience and to share it with others as we move into our careers and vocations. The Lord is telling such beautiful and intricate stories with our lives, and Catholic Studies will be something that we all have in common.
This story that the Lord had been telling has been quite the adventure so far, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.