From the beginning of my life, God has been a part of who I am. My parents raised my siblings and I Catholic. My family and I always went to mass on Sundays, but our faith went beyond that. Growing up in a Catholic household, there was always talk of God. My parents would always mention God, even if it was in a little way, each and every day. In fact, I do not think I can remember a time that God was not talked about in my house. Due to my upbringing, I always knew who God was, or so I thought.I never really thought much about who God truly was or just how much my Catholic faith meant to me. In the past, being Catholic for me was just a casual part of who I was. I mean yeah I was Catholic, but so what? I never felt a strong connection with Him in really anything that I did. As I grew up, my parents encouraged me to get involved in the youth ministry at my parish and I did participate in some of the activities. A lot of these activities I enjoyed and went to on my own will, but honestly most of them I did not enjoy. There would be some times that I would not feel welcomed in groups or just feel like no one was friendly, so the events started to not be enjoyable for me to go to. On top of that, I never really had a “God moment” or any strong connection with Him, so I started to find every which way not to get involved with these events. I would make excuses for why I did not want to go, even though some of them were true.
Then, one day, my parents came home from church after hearing about a retreat for high school sophomores through freshmen in college, and of course they wanted me to go on it. My immediate reaction was: Absolutely…not. NO WAY. Why would I torture myself through four days with people that I did not know and probably would not like me? After many attempts at convincing me to go on the retreat, the decision was eventually made for me: I was going whether I liked it or not. You could say I was not the least bit thrilled to be signed up for this retreat. I was SO hesitant to go because of all the negative experiences that I had in the past.
Then came the morning of when it was time to bring me to church to drop me off for retreat. The retreatants all meet at my parish before a bus takes them up to the retreat house. I got into a fight with my parents, probably over something really stupid because I can’t remember exactly what it was about, but it probably had to do with the fact that I did not want to go on the retreat. Despite my refusal, I grabbed my duffel bag and got in to the car with a frown on my face. When we arrived at my parish, as much as I did not want to go on the retreat, I wanted to be out of the car as fast as I could. As soon as I got out, one of the teen directors greeted me with a huge smile on his face and said “Welcome! We are so glad to have you here!”. I was so taken a back… woah…people were NICE here?! As I went to join the other retreatants, I began to become more open to the thought of the retreat.
Following a send off ceremony, we were on our way to the retreat house in a town that I have never heard of. After a few welcoming activities and dinner, the team told us that we were going to be praying the Stations of the Cross. In my head, I immediately said “Oh no. The Stations are always SO long and SO boring, and now I have to go through them here? Great.” Little did I know, as soon as those thoughts entered my mind, they left. Unbeknownst to me, I was going to be witnessing the Stations acted out. I had never experienced a living Stations before this. This experience was so moving for me and with each step that I took following Jesus on the path to His death, I felt a pang of guilt and I could only think “I’m so sorry”. Now reflecting back on this, I realize Jesus must have been saying to me, “Don’t be sorry, but realize what I’ve done for you.” Now instead of apologizing for everything, I realize I would have said, “Thank you God for saving me.”
This retreat was so much more beyond the Stations, but I would be writing a novel if I wrote down every single thing that happened. That weekend, God came in to my life in a way that I never thought He would. He found me, and has stuck by my side ever since. Believe it or not, this is not my full testimony. I have experienced many ups and downs since this retreat, and I’d love to share them with anyone who wants to hear. Just remember, you are never too far gone for God to reach you; He will meet you where you are at. God bless, and thank you for taking the time to read part of my story.
Andrea is a junior in college who is studying to become a teacher. She has a passion for working with children and a desire to love and serve God’s people in any way that she can. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, baking, and spending time with her family, which includes her beautiful nieces, nephew, and friends. Andrea also loves to write, and you can check out a blog she’s started here at: madeinhisimagesite.wordpress.com.