How one woman’s experience of trauma is bringing others back to the church
I cannot remember how long I felt broken. Perhaps it started in my early elementary-school years when I discovered the sexual advances of my stepfather were not normal. Or maybe it was when I realized I did not fit in at my suburban, all-girls, mostly white Catholic high school. Or was it when I was on boyfriend number infinity?
In my search to feel whole once more—and to, in turn, provide more for my children—I returned to the Catholic Church when I was 31 years old. My stepsons were attending a Catholic school and one of the requirements for parents and students was to attend Mass at least once a month. Once there, the Rev. Donald Ehr, S.V.D., invited me to take a more active role in my parish. I began to help teach classes for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. I volunteered to be a sacristan, a lector and a parish council member. I prayed, lit candles and practiced all the rituals I felt I was supposed to embrace as a Catholic—and still, I felt broken.
I was frustrated and asked God, “Why are you not doing what I want?” But when I was at my lowest point, drowning in hopelessness, I felt that God answered my prayers. By my constant demands for God to act when and how I wanted her to act, I had inadvertently closed myself off. Once I arrived at this realization and began to open myself up, I felt God actively working in my life. I felt pure, clear and at peace.
I was frustrated and asked God, “Why are you not doing what I want?”
Evangelization requires personal witness. Through my experience of trauma and healing, I saw where God was active in my life. What I have learned I share, particularly with young adults. In sharing my own story and experiences, I try to help others return to the church. While I was working for the Archdiocese of Chicago, I met a young woman. She stated clearly that she had issues with the church and that I could not force her to change her mind. I agreed. Instead of talking about what others should do, I shared my story of brokenness. Over the next year, that young woman never missed one of our biweekly meetings. Eventually she, too, returned to the church.
God hears our cries. In our misery and pain, she hears us. And in answering us, she calls us. Calls us to move past the pain, past the misery, to her warm embrace, to the peace that surpasses all understanding.
I invite you to inhale the exhale of God. Breathe in what God so willingly pours out. Inhale the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. Allow the Spirit to move you as she will. Allow her to have her way with you. Become familiar with God’s breath: a tongue of fire residing within you—not above you—and burning, so that those things that would imprison you are burnt away. This welcoming of the Holy Spirit is a way of opening one’s life to holiness. By taking note of the Holy Spirit within us, we better understand our relationship with God, self and others. There are other things asking for our attention that are neither healthy nor holy. The Holy Spirit will help us navigate the murky waters of sin and confusion we are exposed to today.
Through my experiences and vocation, I strive to bring peace and holiness to those around me. Through the peace of the Holy Spirit, we are called to be transformed and anointed “to bring good news to the poor, freedom to the prisoner and the oppressed, recovery of sight to the blind, and God’s favor.”
By sharing my story and experience, I can help others find the goodness, grace and mercy of God.