After graduating in 2016 in Business Studies and Japanese at Cardiff University, I spent some time as an English teacher in Spain. It was around this time that a friend encouraged me to do a mission year, after helping parishes to run Confirmation retreats. However, I found it difficult to see myself regularly working with large groups of people, as I am a naturally shy individual.
Nevertheless, I eventually joined SPEC as a volunteer missionary in September 2018, and have spent this past academic year working with young people in retreat ministry. As my missionary commitment has come to an end this month, I’ve been invited to reflect on how I have found this experience.
I’ve made many happy discoveries over the course of the year. The first has been that in ministry you are free to be yourself. I really admire members of our team who feed off the energy of the groups who visit us, and who thrive off engaging with large groups of new people all at once, day after day. I’ve also really enjoyed trying to take an extended interest in individual students as we interact with them throughout their retreat.
I have come to appreciate that, as missionaries and retreat leaders, we can depend on each other as a team. We all have different personalities, which is great because we can better accommodate the diversity of young people when we are together than when we are on our own. As a team we can connect and relate to every young person we encounter.
This means investing in each other has also been really important. Looking back on the year, I am so grateful for the brilliant effort my fellow missionaries have made to support and encourage me, and I hope that I have done the same for them. Being able to celebrate each other is one of the best things about living and working together as a community.
On retreats, I have been really surprised by how much I have received from the young people themselves – they are very good at being open and honest, and it’s incredibly rewarding to learn that they are having a good time participating in the programmes we have prepared for them. My favourite moments have been listening to their opinions on faith, life and the universe.
I always like to remember that God makes the real difference. Our prayer rhythm as a community is very significant to us and our mission. In the chapel, located in our house, we pray morning and evening prayer together, with 45 minutes of Eucharistic Adoration as part of evening prayer.
There are afternoons I can go into the chapel feeling tired, deflated and discouraged, but after prayer I leave the chapel completely changed. Most importantly, I love that we get to see the young people encounter the Lord, often for the first time, in those chapel sessions.
This is why I came to SPEC. It has been a blessing.