“How We Got Here” by Cat

As the daughter of a campus minister, and a preschool teacher with tremendous faith, telling my parents I was being called to a year of service post graduation was one of the easiest things that I’ve ever had to do. It was gratifying. Almost as if all of their work and endless faith has led up to that moment. I found pride in making them proud. 

I graduated from St. John’s University in May, with a degree in Childhood Education. In the beginning of my senior year, I started to wonder if I would be happy in a classroom for the rest of my life, or if what would be beyond those walls would call me at a greater volume. If I had changed my major as a senior in college I would have added an extra year onto my time as an undergraduate student. That sounds appealing, I know, the idea of spending another year at school, and leaving with a degree that feels true to you, however I still had no idea what I would’ve changed it to. I decided to finish out my time at St. John’s, get my degree in education and figure out what came next as it were to come. Luckily for me, when it came time to have this conversation with my parents, they were well prepared. My older brother also graduated from college with a degree, one that he had no intention of using.

From a young age, my uncle always said to me, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” This really spoke to me, and it continues to motivate me everyday. This, along with my family’s support, is what keeps me searching for the perfect job, one that marries my work to my vocation. When questioning what was to come after graduation I knew two things: I wanted a career where I would be working with youth to help people in some capacity. I also knew I needed a community that would help me to grow in all aspects of my professional, personal, and spiritual life. With this in mind, there was only one logical place to turn: The Center for FaithJustice. 

My first experience with The Center for FaithJustice came when I was a rising junior at Bishop Ahr High School, and participated in JusticeworX Trenton. It was during that week that I found my passion and love for service. It was the first time, in my measly 15 years of living, that I actually felt like my faith was my own, and not something that my parents told me I should believe in. I learned the difference between charity and justice, and how to put my faith into action. I loved my experience so much, that I decided to do JusticeworX Trenton two more times. On all three of my JusticeworX experiences, I bonded with the leaders, and talked to them about possibly doing LeaderworX myself when I was old enough. Finally, after one of my friends from St. John’s had come back from a summer of LeaderworX, I knew that I had to clear my schedule and make the time to do it.

“Ask me about the best summer of my life!” is on the back of our LeaderworX recruitment shirts, and honestly it couldn’t be a more perfectly worded phrase. The summer of 2018 was truly the best summer of my life. Through my time at leaderworx, I was able to learn about my leadership skills, my faith, and more about myself. I had my first experience of living in intentional community, and learned more than I thought possible about the power of encounter. The theme of our summer programs that year was encounter, it was because of this that I came to realize the way I feel most connected to God is through my connection with others. I was surrounded by an amazing group of people of all ages who were actually asking the hard questions about what it looked like to be a Catholic in today’s society. Once again I had CFJ to thank for forming my faith and strengthening my relationship with God. 

For a third time in my life, CFJ was the place that had everything I was yearning for. And better yet, my placement would be working directly for CFJ as a NeXt Level Coordinator! In this role I got to meet and to work with all of the students participating in Next Level at our immersion week called Level Up. Having that experience in July calmed my nerves, and confirmed for me that CFJ was in fact where I belonged. I finally got to meet my fellow NeXt Level Coordinator, and all of the amazing students we get to work with. Being able to put names to the faces, and get a better understanding of what I’d be doing for the next year was just what I needed as my post grad nerves really started to kick in. 

So here we are, now 3 weeks (officially) into my position as a NeXt Level Coordinator. Working in the office and starting to get into the swing of things has been a huge adjustment, but an amazingly impactful one nonetheless. Trying to manage work, a social life, and grocery shopping has become my new normal. I think this means I’m officially “adulting”. 

I’m immensely thankful for my journey, even if I wound up a little off course. I think sometimes the most beautiful adventures come when you don’t have a path, but are forced to make one as you go. I ended up exactly where I was meant to. CFJ, you have made me more me than I’ve ever been, and I can’t wait to see what this next year holds for us. 

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