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I was recently inspired by this article by the Catholic News agency on Pope Francis’ call to the faithful for a deeper encounter with others. Now, I’m not usually one to read an article I see posted on Facebook, but this one caught my eye because 1) It’s POPE FRANCIS and 2) deeper connection is kind of SPO’s bag.
In his interview, Pope Francis talked about a “culture of encounter” that is needed in the Church. How true this is! In their mission of evangelization, the SPO missionaries are creating this culture of encounter through making personal connections with their peers and leading them to the ultimate personal encounter with Christ. This is at the heart of SPO mission. The apostles went out and met with those who followed Christ. Christ personally asked each disciple to follow him. Should we not do the same?
It may seem like connecting and building relationships is an impossibility in this digital age in which we live. Many think technology breaks apart human relationships, but the SPO missionaries have shown that these tools can be used to create stronger bonds. The SPO missionaries are Feacbooking, tweeting and Instagraming to reach out to their peers, and making connections with people however and wherever the opportunity presents itself. The key is to take that relationship offline once the connection has been made, and to continue to foster it in the real world.
Along with this interview, Francis also emphasized this need for connection in his own actions at World Youth Day. The Pope requested a change of transportation, opting out of the bullet-proof “Popemobile” for something that would bring him closer to the people on the street. Through these actions, the Pope is showing that he understands that the less barriers we have between each other, the easier it is to make a connection. The SPO missionaries do just this as they strive to break down those barriers of who can and should be Catholic and who can and should not. In the eyes of these missionaries, your background shapes who you will become, but is not who you are – who you are is a loved and cherished disciple of God. All are welcome, just as Jesus welcomed all.
But, you don’t have to be an SPO missionaries to be a part of this culture of encounter. The only requirement to join this revolution is that you connect, and allow yourself to be connected, with the Body of Christ.
For many, summer is a time to relax and “go with the flow” – breaking from your normal routine and spending some time doing a little bit of nothing. This can be quite nice for a while, but all of us eventually experience the need for something to do…but then the question is what? We know that we want a plan, but it can be hard to put something together – especially if other people are involved. How can thinking of what you would like to do be so hard?
Sounds not only like the story of summer, but the story of our lives. Time and again we try to figure out what we want or need to do to bring ourselves some joy. Everything from deciding what friends to hang out with to what career path to follow can seem like an impossibility to decide at times, mostly due to the fear of picking the wrong thing. Even little decisions can carry this huge fear. What could possibly calm our anxieties from the constant decision-making the world throws at us?
The answer, of course, is our Lord. We hear it time and again, “God has a plan”. And it’s easier to follow than we think! Many times we complicate discerning God’s plan by thinking about what other people will think or if we’ll regret our decision, not matter how much we feel it’s right. But, it really is right! God knows our hearts better than we do ourselves, and has placed desires within them to lead us to Him and His plan – it’s just a matter of tapping in to that and trusting your own wisdom.
Let God help you make those decisions. Even though it may seem like God cares little about whether you see a movie or go to a baseball game, you may be surprised how all those little decisions in your life bring you to some big ones. It’s those “ah ha!” moments that change our lives, but it is the “ho hum” moments that bring us there. God is speaking to you – just trust in yourself that it’s God you’re hearing.
When I left Massachusetts, I really didn’t know how I was going to stay strong in my relationship with God. I was concerned my faith would become stagnant or even start declining without the support of faithful men and women around me holding me accountable and supporting me. Thanks to God’s providence, it wasn’t long after I arrived in Columbus that I found SPO and was welcomed with immense love and kindness. Immediately, I could tell that this was much more than just a student group, it was a community of young men and women who were following Christ’s call to follow Him and bear witness to the Gospel.
I had been involved with several ministries in high school and in college. Those ministries served me well, but they all had an ending point. In high school things after I graduated. I was involved in several ministries during my under grad studies, but they too ended after I graduated.
When I came in contact with SPO I soon realized something was different: With SPO there’s no ending point.
SPO’s target outreach is to college students, but it’s goal is to build up people in their faith for life. Through the households and small men’s and women’s groups, young adults are being transformed by Christ through SPO into Men and Women of deep spiritual maturity and commitment. And these men and women have blown me away
Because of God’s work in my life and my involvement with SPO, I am finding that I can live out my Christian vocation of being a missionary better because when I share the message of Jesus Christ with others, I can now offer them a group of people who want to live that message with them.
A concrete example of this is my women’s small group. Every other week, I meet with a group of amazing women. These women ask me about my prayer life, about how I am handling the pressure of the world, about how my relationship with my fiancé is going. They hold me accountable to the goals that God is calling me towards, and they help me see the wonderful ways that Christ is working in my life when it’s hard to see it on my own. It’s difficult to keep running in the direction of our God when so much of what’s going on around us is pulling us in other directions. But I receive so much encouragement and strength from these women to live as a woman of virtue and put my identity in nothing else but being Nicole Desrochers—Daughter of God. Their encouragement, the witness of their lives, and their prayer for me has been an incredible support for me and I cherish the way that God has worked through them to help my love for him mature
As I move towards my vocation, I am confident that, because of the commitment of my brothers and sisters in SPO to Christ and one another, I will be a better wife, a better mother, and a better nurse. It’s such a blessing to have a whole group of people who are running the race and striving for holiness with me, supporting me, encouraging me, holding me accountable, and helping me to be the self gift—totally outpoured for others—that Christ is calling me to be.
In the model of iron sharpening iron, these Men and Women who are being formed by SPO have challenged me to live more faithfully, more deeply, more completely in love with God and to serve Him with all of my life for the rest of my life.
There’s no graduation day to loving God, and there’s no graduation day to the kind of life we are living in SPO. Through building and sharing life together, SPO is raising up mature Christian men and women, men and women ready to serve Christ and His Church, men and women ready to challenge and change the culture—Men and Women ready to lead others into a life of Christian discipleship.
Originally posted on the SPO Nation website at http://www.spoweb.org/nicole-snyder-testimony
Saint Paul’s Outreach has had a presence at the University of Miami for close to four years, but this coming Fall a Mission Center will officially open on the campus. Two SPO Missionaries will serve the students at the U of M, and recent Miami grad Oscar Robles will join the OH Missionaries at Ohio State. Oscar shares about his experience building the mission grounds in Miami and what he looks forward to for his days in the Midwest.
Greetings from Saint Paul’s Outreach’s newest Mission Center! The Lord is up to a mighty work down at the University of Miami where I, and the city of Miami as a whole, are humbled to have been a part of it. My name is Oscar Robles and I recently graduated this past May from the University of Miami with a degree in civil engineering. Starting this fall I will be serving with SPO as a Mission Leader at The Ohio State University and I could not be more excited!
Over the last four years I have been involved with SPO as a Student Missionary by attending the School of the New Evangelization and Summer Household Programs in Minnesota. I was also a student leader at the St. Augustine Church and Catholic Student Center, which supports the students at the University of Miami, and I was blessed to witness the Catholic Community be totally transformed during my time there.
I first came around the Catholic Student Center at the beginning of my sophomore year after already having my faith deepened tremendously through various SPO programs. I was on fire for my faith and wanted to help build up a Catholic community and share the good news of the gospel to my peers. Once I got to the Catholic Student Center I met the newly assigned pastor, Msg. Michael Carruthers and the newly hired campus minister, Michelle Ducker, and we realized very quickly that we all had the same vision for campus ministry. It was definitely the Lord that brought us all together, and over the next three years we labored and reached out to students, calling them on in their relationships with Christ.
I learned very quickly that as much as I thought I knew what I was doing I really didn’t. I learned how to rely on the Lord and in His plan for Miami. There is so much more to say and many stories to share about the adventure of these last four years. Specifically, I witnessed a small group that was closed in on itself be transformed. This budding community is filled with students who are on fire for the Lord and His Church and who truly desire to grow in relationship with Him and each other. It is undeniable that they desire to share the good news of Christ with their peers!
It’s an exciting time down in Miami, and to add to the excitement SPO will be sending full-time Missionaries down to Miami for the first time in order to continue the great work that the Lord is already doing. I am excited for the way the Lord will continue to work in my life as I serve in Ohio and to continue to see what the Lord is doing in Miami! Praised be Jesus Christ!
-submitted by Oscar Robles, Ohio State Mission Leader
As we approach one of the most celebrated days in our nation’s history, my thoughts have turned to what it is we celebrate on the fourth of July. Fireworks, burgers and beer come to mind, but really we are celebrating freedom. We are blessed to live in a nation where our freedom is prized and we do not experience the oppression and persecution found in other countries. Especially during election times, it seems Americans are constantly thinking about our freedom, and fighting to protect it. We so often hear that our freedom is under fire from the government, from corporations, from each other. Can something so fragile really be true freedom?
How about “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Now THAT is a freedom I can get behind. This is a freedom that exists regardless of laws or stipulations. This is the freedom that our Lord gives us – no strings attached. We cannot lose this freedom, but we can chose not to use it. When we submit ourselves to the slavery of sin and the things of the world, we are giving up that freedom. But, it is always there for us to take back! All we have to do it want it.
So this 4th, give thanks for the freedom you have received from our Creator. It’s no wonder we sing “God, Bless America” – it seems we all know that it is God who gives the freedom we seek.