I was blessed to grow up in a Catholic family. I grew up praying every night and feeling the presence of the Lord in my life. In spite of this, while I was in high school, I became involved in a relationship that was unhealthy. Expectations were placed on me that made me feel as though I needed to be perfect for this other person. I was made to feel that my outward appearance, in particular my weight, was of sole importance. Because I wanted to please this person and gain his affection, I placed my personal identity and my worth in the number the bathroom scale showed me. Before I realized, I became obsessed with lessening that number.
Over time, I began to see the negative toll the situation had, and when I decided to break things off, I was left feeling sad, resentful, and insecure. I didn’t share this with anyone, because I didn’t think they wanted to hear it. So when I was around others, I exuded confidence; but when I was behind the closed door of my bedroom I felt that recurring pain and rejection of not being “good enough.”
I took these hurts and insecurities with me to first year in college. I again molded myself into someone who I thought the people around me would like. I especially sought approval by immersing myself in parties and drinking.
It was during this time that I first met Saint Paul’s Outreach at Seton Hall University’s Involvement Fair. Without much thought, I wrote down my contact info for them and ended up at one of their events. I was amazed to witness for the first time a group of young people who were my age praying to God with extraordinary zeal and genuineness.
When the event was over, Ed Moccia came up to me and wanted to sincerely know who I was and how I was doing. What struck me most was that he even remembered my name when I came back the following week. (I felt bad because I honestly didn’t remember his name!)
Struck by this new experience, I decided to join an SPO small group. My small group leader, Kimi Butler, regularly invited me to lunch with her, and I remember feeling shocked that someone could be so interested and so invested in my life. However, despite finding these new friendships, I was still straddling between the new life I was being called to, and the lifestyle of college parties.
It wasn’t until after SPO’s retreat, Fan into Flame, that I finally realized there was something more I was missing in my life. That weekend, I witnessed that everyone around me had an undeniable joyfulness within them that I didn’t have. I discovered that this whole time what my heart truly desired was the source of that joy: the freedom of knowing that I am loved so perfectly by Jesus Christ.
So when I came home from Fan into Flame, I decided to stop giving just some parts of myself to God. Little by little I gave the Him everything – my past relationship… my weekend parties… my identity and worth… my life. I started to see myself through God’s eyes, and I began to find my own beauty and worth not in others or on the weight scale, but in the Lord’s all-consuming love for me. In response, I found myself diving into the Scriptures and boldly walking into the university’s chapel between classes. I had this newfound desire to share my faith with my friends and my family. I even began to invite my friends to SPO events.
Now as a junior, I serve as a Student Missionary, leading a small group of women in their journey towards God. It is a joy to love them where they are at, just as my first SPO small group leader had done for me. At last, I had found the love, freedom, and healing that I was searching for in the arms of our Father. And I am so excited to share that with others!