by: Michael Dugan
As a child, I was baptized Catholic. However, when I was growing up, our family practiced our faith pretty minimally. We went to Catholic school, but I hadn’t encountered the Lord in my heart, and this was especially apparent to me at the end of middle school and the beginning of my high school years. Though I was still altar serving, doing well in religion class, and not getting into trouble, I still lacked that personal knowledge of the Lord’s love. After my sophomore year of high school, however, I ended up being volunteered by my mom to help the youth minister with a summer program at our parish.
The youth minister required us to be present at 8 am for Mass and take part in the 1:30 Holy Hour - every Monday to Friday. I was pretty bored in adoration, to be honest. I didn’t know why I was there, and I didn’t really want to be there. One day, though, I looked around and saw the joy on the faces of the people around me - a joy that I did not have or understand. I wondered to myself, what was I missing? I like to say my faith was born out of jealousy.
So I spent the rest of the summer trying to enter into the times of prayer, and found myself looking forward to and being nourished by these moments. Luckily, the community I had at this summer program was largely the same community I had throughout the school year at youth group, and I was able to continue growing in faith with these friends.
I attribute the beginning of my faith and prayer life to this youth group and the community I found there. Thanks to my initial conversion, I found a desire to help others experience the Lord as well. I studied theology and philosophy in college so that I could better understand my faith and pass it on, and then worked as a missionary with NET Ministries for three years. During my time with NET, I led 2 teams of missionaries, for one year each, in St Joseph, Michigan, and spent my third year in St Paul, Minnesota as a team supervisor. The time of training allowed me to grow deeper in my relationship with the Lord and get back to regular daily prayer, which is what fueled me to work as a missionary for that time.
In St Joseph, my teams helped out with youth group events and ministered to the youth of the community by going into the Catholic and public schools for lunches, hosting events after school, and meeting them for coffee in town. I was blessed to be in the area for two years, and was able to grow some wonderful relationships with the people there - both the youth I worked with and their parents. When I was in St. Paul, I lived in household with six, sometimes seven, other men. My housemates called me on in prayer and service and were always there to help as we worked to grow the mission of NET. These men, along with the women we worked with, were a very tightly knit group. I was sad to leave them, but over the course of the year with them I had discerned a call to marriage with my now-fiancee and decided to move back to the east coast to be closer to her.
Now, I find myself with ChristLife, and am very excited to continue serving the mission of the Church through my work with ChristLife. I am especially excited to continue working with young adults through my role with ChristLife Young Adults.