I was born in South Dakota as a cradle Catholic, and my parents raised my two brothers and I in the faith, which was a tremendous gift. They invested in Catholic schooling from elementary school up to high school. Throughout my life I was always exposed to the concept of Jesus and what we believed, but it never really resonated fully. Due to a lot of my own misunderstandings and a lot of resistance, I actually fell away pretty early in my life — probably around my junior year of high school.
That pretty much lasted all up until my college years. I went — by the sheer grace of God — to one of the most Catholic universities in the United States, because it was the one that I could afford at that time.
Eventually, I entered into some relationships that were not good for me and fell into the typical ‘college culture.’ I was in a very difficult place and didn't know what to do about it. I was at a point where I was going to transfer after sophomore year because I didn’t think it was right for me.
But before I did that, I had applied for the study abroad program to Rome. And again, by the sheer grace of God, I got in. During that time abroad, immediately I was around some really holy, wonderful people and I recognized that there was something very different about them. There was so much joy even in the struggles of life. I was amazed by their actual desire to go to the Eucharist.
My roommate, Jessy, would go to the chapel every single night. It was the first time I had ever seen a person my age invest in their faith. She would invite me and I would say no a lot, until eventually, one day, I went by myself.
I remember sitting in that tiny little chapel in Rome, and I was looking at the altar, and I didn't really understand it. But I began to frequent it more and thought, ‘This is so peaceful.’
I think I started seeking out adoration because I was seeking to understand my friends more. I was wrestling with the question, 'What is motivating them and bringing them their unceasing joy?' And then, I began wrestling with the idea of Christ’s presence, thinking things like, 'Okay, I've been told that You're here my entire life. I want you to reveal Yourself to me.' It was the beginning of divine intimacy. At first it was just a desire to understand my friends, and in the end it became a desire to understand Him and myself.
Throughout that time in Rome, through encountering the beauty of Catholicism in Rome, through churches, through our courses, I slowly began to fall in love with the Lord. Eventually it led me into the confessional, into a moment of pure mercy. And from that moment, really, everything changed.
I returned from studying abroad and there was this small chapel in the music wing of my college. Because I was a music minor, I was there a lot and would start stopping in there for five minutes, 15 minutes, and then eventually an hour. And it was just this beautiful place to come in front of our Lord.
Since then, all of my major life decisions have been made in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I changed my major. I made the decision to become a FOCUS missionary. I heard the call to come to Detroit. I made the decision to serve as the Outreach Coordinator for Detroit Catholic Campus Ministry.
Now I am so very privileged to be able to work with young people, to help facilitate encounters between them and Jesus. It’s a gift to be able to say ‘Oh Lord, You are so abundantly good and working through my own weakness.’
When I was a first year FOCUS missionary, my friend Bailey passed away unexpectedly. And I remember very distinctly going to this giant crucifix in Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Detroit where I work. And underneath, there’s the tabernacle. And I just sat there at His feet, giving Him everything, all my confusion, all my hurt, all my anger. I want to give Him everything, all of the highs, all the lows. And that is what I want students to know, too — that we can give Him it all.
Experience it for Yourself
Jesus is truly present. Jesus is always with you. Sit in his presence and open yourself up to his voice.