Articles Under: Personal Witness Stories

A cascade of trees flowed down the hillside towards the water, a body of water that was bigger than a pond but not quite a lake, on the lands belonging to the Holy Ghost Fathers in southern Connecticut. In England it might be called a mere, but in my childhood, we neither knew nor cared about things like that: for us it was simply boys’ paradise, especially in winter. The Holy Ghost Fathers never bothered us, nor ran us off—in fact, I cannot recall ever seeing them. Perhaps the mere was too far from the main house, or perhaps they... Read more
The work of catechesis, like any aspect of the Christian life, calls for great trust. In fact, Bishop Robert Barron’s book And Now I See speaks of the process of metanoia (conversion), signifying an internal shift to a mind governed by trust in God rather than fear. Personally, this resonates a great deal. My teaching career commenced on turbulent waters. My experiences as a student teacher achieved precisely the opposite of what was intended. Instead of brimming with the energy and enthusiasm of a recent graduate, I emerged with my teaching confidence in absolute tatters, laden with self-doubt and fear... Read more
Letting the Holy Spirit Answer Whenever I’m about to make a big decision, I always jokingly remind my friends “It’s my job to knock on all the doors; it’s God’s job to open one.” All my life, I have found this to be true. God allows me to run around pursuing opportunities, and then he simply opens the right door. The beauty of the workings of God in our lives is that he knows us so well. God knows me better than I know myself; he knows what I need to become the saint he created me to be. Yet... Read more
I walked along the forbidden streets of one of Philadelphia’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods while being greeted respectfully by neighbors. They knew I lived at the church and, despite countless warnings about the safety of this community, I encountered only joyful faces. One of the first conversations I had as I walked from the El station to the church rectory, where I lived with other young adults, was with a seven-year-old girl, who asked me: “Is God a father and Mary a mother?” Yes, Mary is a mother, and she is the mother of all of us; she is Comforter of... Read more
Grace-Filled Broken Hearts This past fall, my middle school students and I (along with the whole school and parish) experienced a heart-wrenching situation. Our pastor was removed from our parish and stripped of his priestly duties due to the revelation of sexual improprieties he had engaged in early in his priestly ministry. I will speak with as much charity as I can muster. We all constantly made excuses for the awkward way this priest conducted himself. He always looked unkempt, regularly arrived late for Mass, treated students (especially altar servers) with an inappropriate level of brusqueness, and introduced “cringey” topics... Read more
I’ve had the pleasure of being a certified teacher for twenty years now. I started my teaching career in a public school, and have spent the last five years teaching middle school students at a Catholic school outside of Phoenix, Arizona. Most teachers will agree that the greatest reward of teaching comes from watching students grow academically and socially. In a Catholic school we have an added bonus and responsibility, which is to help guide students as they form their spiritual life. Our youth face the difficult task of navigating a social and public landscape that is often in opposition... Read more
Movement of the Holy Spirit Have you ever had the experience of walking into your classroom and, after careful observance, prayerfully deciding to pivot away from your planned lesson? This happened to me a few years ago. I had prepared diligently for a lesson on the Sacrament of the Eucharist. I was ready to use my short time with the students to teach them about the Real Presence and the wonderful effects of receiving the Blessed Sacrament. Yet, when I entered the room, I saw looks in their eyes and in their body language a reality that would test even... Read more
Few people impact us on such a deep level that it changes our life journey. For me, that influence happened in 1994. In August of that year, Barbara Morgan began the catechetics program at Franciscan University of Steubenville. I had the great blessing of being there when it started. She became a spiritual mother to me and infused in me a deep sense of purpose. In this article, I would like to share a few ways in which she did that with me. The First Class Barbara’s significance in my life was unparalleled, and I knew it would be profound... Read more
“Let the Children Come to Me” (Mt 19:14) I have not been a catechist for a very long time; however, I was recently privileged to see how the Word of God calls to little children. The week’s lesson was entitled “The Greatest Gift of All” and the subject was the Holy Eucharist. My student is my seven-year-old son, who is as busy as all seven-year-olds are. Most of what I teach seems to go in one ear and out the other because on any given day, when asked what he learned that day, my son inevitably replies with a very... Read more
Trusting God to Take the Lead A couple years ago, I volunteered as a first-grade catechist for my parish’s religious education program. This was before I was taking any classes or working in ministry, and I often struggled with how to present material to such a young age. The program we followed wasn’t much help; the kids I taught did not seem to connect to the content at all. I modified what I could and tried to make it fun, but often I felt my efforts were inadequate. One Sunday morning, I was teaching on the parable of the workers... Read more