1) Learnin’ ma roots
The Sion Youth foundation year really does have amazing formation. There is interesting and engaging teaching on the Catholic faith and the beauty in the scripture, doctrine, and practice of the Church we are part of. I’ve kept my brain muscles working and there’s so much I’ve learnt that’s given me more passion and awe at the incredible complexity and simplicity in what we believe and why. There’s also formation on useful and practical lessons for Youth ministry, community life, and just life in general.
I never knew how much I didn’t know, and it’s brilliant!
2) Growin’ ma roots
I have grown more in this year than I thought possible. I’ve achieved things I never thought I would or could. I’ve pushed myself and tried and then fallen, and learned to rely on God’s strength because I simply can’t do it on my own. If I was a plant then this community is a greenhouse with a Divine Gardener. I’ve been watered with formation, given the sunlight from God, and been rooted in the soil of prayer and community. There is an inhaling of prayer and praise and an exhaling of mission and service, and I’ve learned to breathe deeply. The routine and security of daily prayer times has been such a gift for someone who just never found enough time in the day for God. I’ve learnt to root myself in more than an occasional spiritual conference, by growing my roots into books, prayer, people, scripture, and the mass – all of which are far more reliable and steady than ‘Jesus camp buzz’. I’ve also somehow found myself doing things I would have bet against myself ever doing, and most people I know would have bet against me too. The last time I was on a stage before Sion Youth, I was 11 years old and half way through the performance, I ran off the stage because I was just too scared to continue. 8 years later, I found myself facing something much scarier. On our first mission, on the first day I shared my life and my failures in six different assemblies in front of about 1500 young people and teachers. I didn’t run off the stage and I didn’t fall off or fall apart. I was so unbelievably amazed by the grace God gave me to get through that. Now I know I can do things that I wouldn’t have even tried before. It’s awesome.
3) Meeting the Yoot (Community and Family)
I have to be careful hear not to be too gushy or the team may read this and think I like them! (I’m kidding I love them really)
I have learnt to relate better to other people and myself during this year, and I just couldn’t believe how wonderful the unity is in our diversity. Our team is made up of young people from different places, with different backgrounds, different views and most wonderfully – different gifts. I LOVE seeing the different skills and perspectives and talents we all bring to the team, and it’s SO clear to see God’s plan in putting this team together. And even more than what they all bring to mission, I just really like them as people. I have so much fun here, and I genuinely enjoy spending time with each person and laughing with them and continually learning about them. But also in the wider community and in our house, we have a great dynamic and I get wisdom and love from the whole ‘family’. I can’t express how grateful I am for the support and patience they have given me this year, I just love ‘em!
4) Seeing the Fruit
Doing missions can be hard work, it’s early mornings and the day will include constant energy and hardly any time to rest until the end of the day. But as with most challenging tasks, the rewards are great, and with missions they’re even greater.
By Thursday or Friday, we usually have a few students giving testimony about what the mission has meant to them. At this point in the week you’ve put in so much, and there is so much power in hearing students stand up in courage in front of their peers and talking about their experiences of God. I feel deeply honoured and privileged to have even played a part in their faith journey, especially having started my personal faith journey from a school mission myself.
5) Having a Hoot (JOY)
I’ve spoken of the fun and happiness I have in the house and with the team, but as I’ve learnt this year: happiness isn’t the same as joy. I’ve grown in my understanding and therefore my ability to choose joy in all situations. I’ve learnt about the depth of joy, and the necessity to trust God and rely on God in order to really experience joy. All of the things I’ve mentioned have helped me develop in my ability to respond to God’s daily call to ‘rejoice for this is the day that He has made’. Even having the knowledge that I can choose joy is a thousand miles from where I was a couple of years ago, and now I try (and admittedly often fail) to choose to see the wonder in life and in God, and it’s an amazing choice to have! PTL!
Kathleen Swift is currently on the Sion Youth Foundation Year. For more information or to apply please click here.