Making it on my own. Moving out. Independence. The goals of the twenty-something me coming out of college were not so unlike the goals most of us have as young adults. We long to prove ourselves, to find ourselves, to be successful in whatever we put our minds to, to show those watching back home that we have what it takes.
And then reality strikes.
It was a summer afternoon on a Monday in 2018, and I was going to pray at church on my day off, something I rarely did as a Music Director, because, I rationalized, I wanted free time - after all, directing music at three or four Masses a weekend is exhausting, and church and God honestly just felt like work. By the end of prayer, I was crying because I knew in my heart that I needed to quit my “perfect” job and head home to Wisconsin. I did so six weeks later.
Fast forward to Fall of 2019. I was working back home, knowing that my calling was not food service, but struggling to figure out how to move forward. At the prompting of a priest, I had coffee with a Brew City Missionary, who invited me to apply for the Missionary Project - the following weekend! I told God that I was surrendering my will to Him, and He came through with a job offer. The following August, I came to training in the midst of the pandemic, lonely, in need of repentance and love. Confession was a beautiful first step, but where I have found much healing, and where I am able to serve and rest, is in a place I was struggling to find - community.
Community was at first so daunting for me. How do I relate to my fellow missionaries, I thought? I know next-to-nothing about how to do this. How do I make friends with them? How do I live with them? I relayed my fears to one of our mentors, who said “have you asked your fellow missionaries any questions about themselves?” A light bulb went on for me! I was living with these people, but not intentionally! So I asked questions. I moved in with three missionaries and three students! There were apologies to make and receive, dealing with different personalities, communication styles, all the above. And there was nowhere to hide. At the same time at the Newman Center, I was working with students in small group Bible studies and large-group settings. They were coming together, relating their struggles and joys in their faith and lives, and it was all beautiful. God was drawing me into community, teaching me that when we do not strive to meet people in community, even, or rather especially, when it is difficult, we fail in our duty to love others.
At the same time, I was continuing to learn to really see my faith not as work, but as a personal relationship with Christ that is meant to be shared in community. Then the message really hit home. This last weekend our campus hosted an in-person viewing of the SEEK conference, which is a retreat opportunity with speakers and small group sessions put on by FOCUS, a nation-wide college missionary program. Seeing new students and current come together for small groups and prayer was powerful, and a talk given set us on fire to share the faith! But all of this was born out of coming together for prayer and to be in community, and to bring others into that community which is the Body of Christ, the Church.
Hi folks! My name is Teresa Wolfe and I am a first year missionary at the UW-Milwaukee Newman Center. I enjoy cooking, singing, and sharing Jesus and His message of unconditional love with the students and young adults I encounter in community.
I have despised personality tests since I was in high school. No matter which test it is, my friends would always disagree with my results which led to lots of confusion. One consistent disagreement between the people in my life and the tests was whether I was introverted (my friends) or extraverted (personality tests).
Basically, an introverted person recharges through personal time whereas an extraverted person recharges through social interactions. Most of my life, people have told me that I must be introverted because I’m quiet. And most of my life, I was conflicted because I love being around people. So as a psychology minor in college, whenever personality tests were mentioned, I always groaned, thinking that I would only be more confused afterwards.
As the mission year began and ministry started in full-swing, the long days started to catch up with me and exhaustion started to set in. There were a lot of mornings I woke up tired and not energized for student meetings. But as I got to the meetings, it was like the Holy Spirit woke up within me and I felt like I could bounce off the walls with the energy I had. When I would leave the meetings and work on more administrative things, the tiredness would rush back in.
A few weeks ago, we were able to attend a young adult prayer event and it was amazing. There were so many people that I knew or was able to meet and I was so happy, I nearly cried. It started when I spoke to one of my teammates. While we were catching up, my other teammate introduced me to two young women who love board games almost as much as I do which was such a lovely surprise. While we were speaking, another friend popped into view, and we were able to catch up and share our recent prayer experiences. Then, I ended up in another conversation with one of the women from my Bible study and we had a heart-to-heart about mission which still brings me joy to think about. My heart was so overjoyed and energized after the event that I actually wanted to go for a run..in the cold...at 10 p.m...
When I reflected upon the graces of that evening, I realized that being with students has continuously energized me, whereas being alone is often draining. Once I realized that, the Truth was liberating. I am an extravert. It felt like something within me clicked and it was easier to embrace other parts of my personality and be thankful to God for creating me the way that He did. The Lord helped me to realize that my identity comes from Him and not from an online personality test, which brought me so much peace.
Thanks for reading all the way to the bio! My name is Mariah Navis, and I am a first-year missionary with Brew City Catholic at UW-Milwaukee. This year has brought so many blessings, especially joy, and I am so excited to share some of them with you!