So, I think many of you about the struggle Beth and I have been going through the past couple of months in discerning where and what God is calling us to do starting this summer. Thanks to everyone who has been praying for us this spring; we are very appreciative and are finally at peace with our decision.
To update all of you, in January we decided to apply to graduate school at the Augustine Institute in Denver, CO. It’s a wonderful school committed to teaching the truths of the Church and has a strong devotion to the teachings of Bl. Pope John Paul II and the New Evangelization. We applied, and in mid-March found out that we were accepted, with a scholarship to boot! We were very thankful, but after some prayer and practical thinking, we realized that even with the scholarship, our student debt would be close to six figures by the time we were done with the program. And that would just be for tuition; we would have to work full-time as well to support ourselves through school.
Knowing that, we thought it was in our best interest to forego grad school, at least for this year, and look to do something else. Around this time, a Youth Minister friend of mine was at Camp Gray with her parish doing a retreat. She came up to me during the retreat and told me about a job opening at a parish close to Madison. She said she would recommend me for the job and encouraged me to apply.
I applied to that position, as well as several others in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, either Youth Ministry or Campus Ministry positions. The next three weeks were pretty difficult; I had only heard from a couple parishes, and it was all bad news so far. I have to admit, Beth and I started to despair a little bit at that point. I had applied for every position I could find, and it didn’t seem like anything was happening. However, we continued to trust God to put us where He wanted us for the next year.
In the middle of this month I got a call from the pastor of St. Francis Xavier parish in Cross Plains, WI. This was the position my friend had told me about, and the job that I most wanted to do next year. He asked me to interview the following week, which went very well. Later that night he offered me the position. I accepted it, and praised God for giving us the patience and trust to get us through the last few months. A couple days later I signed the contract; I am now officially the new Youth Minister at St. Francis Xavier. Beth and I are so excited to settle down in the Madison area. I am especially excited about living close to so many good friends, and of course, Camp Gray. I also know many of the high school students at SFX, and I cannot wait to start working with them this summer.
So far, I hope you can appreciate the grace God gave both Beth and I to get us through the last few months. We received lots of grace, but we also made a conscious choice to trust in God and His will for us. Sometimes that choice came with tears, anxiety, and worry. But we made the choice anyway. It came with difficult questions from our family and friends, which we braved knowing that God would lead us exactly to where He wanted us. The past ten days have been wonderful, and it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders. Glory to God!
There’s a little more to this story now. Last week, right before I signed my contract at SFX, I got an email from the Augustine Institute saying that one of the professors, Dr. Edward Sri (you may know him from a Lighthouse Media CD or pamphlet about the new Mass translation last year) wanted to call and chat about the new curriculum at the AI. Beth and I had not told the school that we were not going to be attending, so I sent an email back telling them of our situation and decision.
This past Monday, Dr. Sri called me anyway. He told me about all the changes in classes that were happening this year (all of which sounded fantastic!) and then asked me about my email and our situation. I told him a little bit about it, and he completely agreed with Beth and I wanting to set our family in the best financial situation possible. He then told me about a new scholarship opportunity that he had just heard about, one that would more than double our first scholarship offer. He asked if that would help us enough to change our minds, to which I said “absolutely!” but then told him about the job I had just accepted and contract I had signed. Dr. Sri was disappointed, but understood.
When we had finished our conversation, I called Beth. We were floored to have been offered such a large scholarship, but knew that God had put us where He wanted us already.
Then on Tuesday, I got another call from Dr. Sri. He wanted to tell me that the number he gave me the day before was incorrect, and that the scholarship would in fact even bigger than he originally thought, one that the AI had never been able to offer before. And they offered BOTH Beth and I the scholarship! I was floored. The chance to complete a Masters Degree at almost no cost to both of us…I asked for time to think and pray, so Dr. Sri and I set a deadline of today to make a decision.
I talked for a long time with my dad and with Beth. After some long conversations, it became apparent that God had me sign my contract with SFX for a reason. As difficult as it would be to turn down this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we knew that God wanted us in Madison. Beth and I both talked with Dr. Sri the next day, and told him that although we were very flattered and appreciative of the offer, we had to turn it down. He wished us luck, and encouraged us to make it out to Denver someday to study at the AI.
Wow. How could Beth and I turn down such an amazing opportunity, just to work as a Youth Minister in Madison, WI? Good question. Like I said, I know that God had me sign my contract for a reason. God did not want me making this decision, or to be tempted by this offer. So He took it out of our hands. My year at Camp Gray has taught me very much, but I think what I’ve learned the most is how to put my trust in God. There were so many undecided things going into this year, some things that are still not resolved right now. When Dr. Sri called this week, my vocation as a Youth Minister was challenged. At no fault of Dr. Sri or the AI, but I was tempted to break my contract with SFX before it had even started.
Knowing that God had put me here for a reason, I was able to resist that temptation and respectfully decline the AI’s offer. Had Beth and I accepted the offer, I think things would have turned out just fine. We would have started in a great Master’s program this fall, and learned a lot. But even though it would have led to very good things, it was not God’s will for us. And that is something Beth and I weight in every decision we make. Sometimes there are no bad choices, only choosing between good things. Still, God has a plan for each one of us, and we must discern that plan to the best of our ability before making those big decisions. The best way I know to do that is to be close with Christ. If it wasn’t for our prayer life, Beth and I would have been completely incapable of making this decision.
Now, to return to our real plan, we are getting married July 7, and I will start at SFX within a week or so of our wedding. Please pray for the SFX teens and myself, that the work the Holy Spirit does through me will be fruitful and effective in bringing those teens closer to Christ and His Church. Thanks for reading such a long post! God Bless.