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Thursday, July 1, 2021

With Young People Like This, the Future Looks Bright!

Mia in 2014, already in love with the faith!
Editor's Comment: Gratitude is the parent of many virtues and the letter below is a thank you message from my granddaughter, Mia, to all those who financially supported her mission trip to New Mexicoin May. I was edified and asked her if I could share it with my blog family. So here it is. With young people like Mia, the future does, indeed, look bright. Please pray for Mia and all young people today who face challenges that many of us have only read about in dystopian novels! I hope she will write for the blog again. As a busy college student who will be working as a dorm hall director this school year she probably won't have time, but the world will be hearing more from this devout and talented young woman. 

Dear Grandma and Paka,

Well, I finally went on mission! After plans were postponed and changed multiple times (I’m sure you can guess why), my team and I arrived in New Mexico ready to serve the community of Gallup. I wanted to write this letter to tell you about what we did in New Mexico and to thank you again for supporting the team and our mission.
It was a diverse trip. Our activities changed every day. From helping different churches with gardening to organizing storage rooms to evangelizing in the streets of Santa Fe, it was inspiring seeing how God used our individual talents to serve the Gallup community throughout the week. I would like to share some of my personal highlights.

One of the opportunities we were given was volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity to help prepare and serve food for the homeless Navajo men and women. These are people who come from broken families, struggle with addictions, and experience little love. They have been rejected by their community because of poor life choices. So, the sisters take them in, preparing meals for them and offering them shelter on nights when they have nowhere else to go. It was humbling to meet these people because it made me realize how much I take for granted in my own life. 

 I come from an amazing family who I know will always be there for me. Yet, many of those people don’t have that kind of love. I enjoyed being able to give the love I have received to those men and women in such desperate need. One specific way in which I was able to do this was through sharing my music with the Navajo people. Despite it being outside of my comfort zone to play guitar for big groups of people, I was grateful to be able to share my talent. When I saw how much joy my music brought, I was astonished. I realized that I don’t need to be perfect at an instrument in order to share my talent with others. I just need to bring what I have and trust that God will provide the rest. Surrendering to God’s will in this way led to a freeing experience for the rest of mission. It’s almost as if God was preparing me by this experience to practice obedience by continuing to say yes to anything he asked of me throughout the trip.

Another favorite part of the trip was the time we spent at Sacred Heart School. Every day from 12pm-1pm, we went to the school to put on mini retreats for 6-8th graders. This service was right up my alley because of the experience I have teaching CCD at Saint Gregory’s Parish in Zelienople, PA. We only had an hour with the kids each day so we focused on building relationships with them and witnessing, through our own stories, to the graces a close relationship with God can bring. I actually had the opportunity to give my own witness. I have always been Catholic and although I don’t have an impressive conversion story like St. Augustine, I was able to share my journey of learning to trust God and surrender everything to His love and mercy. I hope that my story inspired at least one of the kids towards developing a personal relationship with God.

Probably my favorite thing we did was street evangelization in Santa Fe. After leaving the retreat center where we were staying in order to make room for other guests, the team drove to the city of Santa Fe and walked the streets talking to strangers. Sometimes conversations would consist of a smile and friendly word however, we did get into some theological topics and apologetics. It was amazing to me to walk around a city noticing people and saying hi to them. Sometimes, it is easy for me to get caught up in my own life and the next thing on my list so that I forget to be present to those around me. Walking around Santa Fe reminded me of the importance of being present to other people, whether that’s helping them discover the answer to questions about the faith or just being a smile in their life that day. It was beautiful being able to minster in that way.

New Mexico was a great trip because it showed me how to serve and how to get out of myself and notice other people around me and their daily struggles. One of my big take-aways from mission is that I don’t have to go to another state to be on mission. Yes, that’s important and needed, but there are people everywhere who need something, including in Steubenville. Not only do I want to get involved in community volunteer opportunities, but I desire to make my everyday life a mission trip. I want to be a light in someone’s world and bring joy to their day even if that’s only through smiling.

Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to learn how to serve on mission so that I can bring mission home to my everyday life. My favorite quote from Mother Theresa sums up what I learned on mission, “if you want to change the world, go home and love your family”.

May God bless you,


1 comment:

Saint Joan of Arc said...

MaryAnn, Congratulations on having a granddaughter who has love of Christ and common sense. In this day and age, that combination is rare. Just beautiful.