Friday, May 20, 2011

Step By Step

Today is May 20th. I can't believe it. Not only has the month of May flown by, but the past year seems to have, too.

In many ways, today will be like any other day. I will hit snooze on my alarm at least twice; I will go to Mass with the same people I have shared my mornings with over the last ten months; I will assist the neighbors who come through the community center's doors; and I will take the day as it comes, which in the case of today means running a Quizzo fundraiser to help support the center where I work. It will be a Friday and it will lead into a weekend where work and relaxation find themselves intermingled. Today will be like a lot of other days, but then again, it won't.

Exactly one year ago today, I signed on to do the SSJ Mission Corps here in Philadelphia. After much discernment, prayer, and discussion with loved ones, I concluded that I wanted to spend the next year of my life in the city of brotherly love. I can recall sitting on a park bench calling one of the sisters to accept the offer to join the Mission Corps. It had taken me less than a week since their offer to conclude, after a much longer period of reflection, that this was where God wanted me to be.

This week I found myself at a young adult faith sharing gathering and inevitably I found myself making small talk with the people around me before the evening began. After talking with some familiar people, I took a seat on a couch next to a woman I had never met before. We struck up a conversation revolving around the basics- where we live, what we do for a living, and where we're from. She told me that she'd been working with senior citizens in an outlying county since August, a comment that prompted me to ask what she had been doing before that. "Oh I was in JVC" she replied, a common answer among the Ignatian dominated crowd.

"Oh? Where did you live?" I asked, thinking that perhaps she might have been in a house with one of my friends.

"Detroit." She responded.

Detroit. I stopped. My brain faulted. What was I supposed to say next? In no other circumstance and with no other person would the conversation have gotten monumentally harder at this point but I just happened to be the one seated on the couch with this FJV from Detroit. The difficulty comes in my own history. See, as I graduated from college I straddled a very fine line: the line between taking a full time job and doing full time service. My final decision was to take the job before me, but in the process I turned down a number of service organizations, including JVC. The problem though was that when I called to decline a position within JVC, they managed to tell me where and what I would be doing before I could break the news to them. I would have been a campus minister in Detroit.

Thus my predicament on the couch this week.

In the moment, I giggled. Then, in order to diffuse the awkwardness of having giggled at this sweet girl's response of 'Detroit' (not usually the funniest of responses), I spilled the beans.

" you're my roommate Andrew" she stated drably.

"I guess I would have been" I spontaneously replied. A word to the wise, if you want to ruin a introductory conversation tell the stranger you're talking to that your paths could have crossed a year before and, as a result, their entire experience would have undoubtedly been different. Try it. See what happens.

Aside from that, the night was nice, filled with conversation and fellowship. Yet, when I got in the car on the way home, I couldn't help but think of that conversation. What a night & what a life.

A year ago, I said yes. And while the year anniversary is certainly noteworthy, so is the date. May 20th is the feast of St. Bernardine of Siena. Never heard of him? No worries, most people haven't.

Bernardine was a 15th century Franciscan renowned for his abilities as a preacher and his dedication, in the vast number of tasks he undertook, to the will of God and sharing of God's grace. If you want a more detailed biography of him click the link above. The reason the date of his feast matters so much to me is that Bernardine is a model for me. In fact, his is my confirmation name. It just happened that I accepted this next step in my life on his feast day. ( I actually didn't realize until the morning of May 20, 2010... when I'd already decided it was the day to accept.)

Now, I feel as Bernardine smiles down upon me. May 20th is quite a day for celebration. This year it marks a year of openness after having said yes. As I've said before, this year has been full, it has been busy, and it has tried me in many ways; I have no doubt, though, that this year has also been one of tremendous growth, transformation, and happiness. The steps that I took to get here were taken in faith. Each step since has been guided by Wisdom and Grace. The steps that await me and which I have already begun to take continue to allow me to wander in wonder. Wonder at the goodness to be found in each day, the way fear can be altered and bear fruit through faith, and the courage that springs forth from mission and contemplation. These things drive my feet as I travel further on my journey and deeper in discovery.

Today, my feet hit the ground once more. The date is special, but, even more, the day that awaits offers something new, something all its own- the chance to wander without reservation, to feel each step, and to lift my feet in faith once more.

Random notice/addition: The SSJ Mission Corps (the program I am a part of) is looking for young people who are interested in a year of service. If you or any college graduate you know might be interested, applications are being accepted until May 31st. More information can be found here & I'm always available if questions/comments/interest arise.


  1. Wow - I have to say- it's so rare we can see a glimpse of the path almost taken. It shows us what a tricky thing discernment can be - that choosing between two goods takes courage - but also that God allows us such beautiful freedom, and gifts us when we are open in whatever thing we choose.

  2. Love, love, love. Way to go in saying yes Colleen. Continue to do it and be amazed!