Evangelizing With Faith-based Community: My Personal Journey of Faith

God has a plan for each of us. Trust in him. 

When I first moved to the Washington, DC area, life had just thrown me a curveball. What started out as a promising future—a master’s degree followed by an internship at my dream company, National Geographic— had quickly turned into unemployment, thousands of dollars in student debt, and this constant feeling of hunger, unsatisfied by food. With a mere $30 to my name, I knew something was missing, and it wasn’t just money to pay the bills.

Like many of us in the Order of Malta, I grew up in the Catholic Church. My Sundays consisted of attending the noon Mass at my home parish of St. James the Apostle in Carmel, NY where I sang in the choir. Sadly, however, my faith life typically began and ended there every week.

By the time I found myself financially broke in DC, it had been roughly five years since I had attended Mass or even allowed myself to let God in. Then one day, while walking the 1.2-mile journey home from my part-time job as a barista to my tiny little apartment, I was approached by two Mormon missionaries who wanted to tell me about our savior, Jesus Christ. Unlike my usual disinterested response, “no thank you,” for some reason I actually said, “sure,” and the three of us talked about Jesus over a burger at the local Five Guys.

This is probably not where you thought my faith journey story was going, but yes, my return to the Catholic faith began with Mormons. God works in mysterious ways.

To make a long story short, as you can probably tell, I did not end up joining the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints. But God had a plan for me, and that night Jesus crossed my mind for the first time in years.

Some time after, I sought out my local Catholic parish and I began to feel nourished; the stresses I had been feeling over my financial situation and career were lifting. I had to trust that there was a divine plan in the works, and a reason for me to be precisely where I was at that moment. I was reminded of the old saying, “You can’t see the picture when you’re standing in the frame.” My struggles had thrown me off of my high horse, and broken my vanity. Humility was a grace I discovered. It was time to start from the ground up, and I was not ashamed to say I had a lot to learn.

Though my Mormon missionary friends were sad to hear I was not joining the LDS, I had to admit that they had instilled in me a sense of a faith community. I had never had this growing up, but surely such a thing existed in the Catholic Church, right? Maybe I wouldn’t have strayed from my faith if I had known it.

I spoke with my priest, Rev. Richard Dyer, and learned that he was in the process of starting up a young adult community. Needless to say I was thrilled, and over the next few months our little Young Adult Ministry (YAM) had grown from six members to more than 30 every week. Having a faith community brought me home, and I saw God’s love in every soul. It was as if I could hear God speaking to me: It is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18).

Two years later, my career finally took off and sent me to a different region of the DC-area: Silver Spring, MD. I had many prayers of thanksgiving to offer for the success I was finally seeing, and for the path I had had to take to get there, no matter how challenging it had been. It was hard to say goodbye to Father Dyer and the Young Adult Ministry that had nourished my faith those past few years, but I knew God’s plan was working once again. I had re-laid the foundation of my faith and was now taking it to a new place. What new strides I would do in His name in my new home were only yet to be discovered. After all, what you own belongs to the Lord and is given for the good of all (Leviticus 25:23-24).

One afternoon at my new job, my co-worker Catherine Demaree approached me. She had heard I was Catholic and wanted to invite me to an event with The Order of Malta (I believe her exact invitation was something as innocent as, “You seem like a cool Catholic. Would you like to do cool Catholic things with me?”). I had never heard of the Order but was interested in the activities and charitable services she was describing. Rouse one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).

Hungry once again for a new faith community, it didn’t take long for me to join and fall in love with the auxiliary. Serving our brothers and sisters in need, alongside other brothers and sisters of faith, filled my soul as God’s love was all around us. Serve one another with the gifts you have received (1 Peter 4:10).

As I thought back on the journey it took to arrive at that moment, I knew my work was not yet over. God had shown me once again the blessings of his love and community, this time through the Order of Malta. Now, it was time for me to go out and help others discover the same blessings of a faith community. Our faith is dead if we ignore others in need (James 2:14-17).

In the summer of 2014, I returned to my parish to work on creating a young adult ministry in my area for young parishioners at all stages of their faith journey. I gave Father Dyer a call for some advice on where to begin, and the tiny seeds of what would later become Silver Spring Catholic had been planted. I am my brother’s and sister’s keeper (Genesis 4:9).

With the help of friends at the Order of Malta and in the Archdiocese of Washington, Silver Spring Catholic has grown into a regional young adult ministry with more 300 members—and counting—in the year it has been active. Together, we offer service to the needy, spiritual retreats for our souls, and social events for our community. Life among the believers (Acts 2:43-47).

As I pray for God’s blessing in my work, I know that I owe success to Him and His love. Today, I am a member of Order of Malta’s class of 2017, chairwoman of Silver Spring Catholic, and am also in the St. Andrew Apostle choir (Funny how God brought me back to my beginnings!). I feel His hand with every milestone I hit, His love and support with every struggle I must overcome, and His guidance with every lesson I must learn. Act justly, love kindness, walk humbly with God (Micah 6: 8).

For others on their journey, my advice to you is this: never lose hope. Whether we are taking our first steps, are in formation, or are deeply rooted in our devotion, God loves us just the same. We are one body, individually members of one another (Romans 12:4-5). He is with us when times are hard. Fellowship with our Catholic peers is a faithful way to serve and be nourished, and I encourage you to find a community that meets your needs. Those who love God must love their brothers and sisters (1 John 4: 21).