by Lisha Ann Rodney
Before I entered Singapore Institute of Management Catholic Society (SIM CS), I was just a Sunday Catholic and my faith was very stagnant. I knew God, but I did not know who He was to me.
Coming into SIM, I came across SIM’s FOC (Freshmen Orientation Camp) on my parish bulletin, and my parents encouraged me to go for it, because it will be good to have a group of ‘Catholic friends’ in school. I was an athlete all my life, and joining a club was never an option for me, mainly because when I was younger I was told that it was not ‘cool’ to be in one. I was skeptical about signing up for FOC, I still have no idea what made me sign up for it till this very day. Perhaps the soft prompting of God?
I went into FOC overly burdened yet I entered with a very open mind and unaware of what to expect out of a retreat. Like many others, it was my first retreat since confirmation camp. As day 1 drew closer, I started dreading it because I am an introverted extrovert, so I would prefer to be in my own small bubble, and only talk to people when I really have the need to. On top of that, the idea of making new friends all over again terrified me. Day 1 came and when I entered the Mount at OYP I was engulfed with warmth, and I felt so much at home. Throughout the course of retreat – I found myself, my identity rooted in Christ. Coming into FOC, I was burdened with many fears, doubts, insecurities, and I learnt to find my worth in Jesus. Especially so during Reconciliation – where I experienced the Lord’s love, mercy and compassion for me. I was struggling with many sins that I did not realize but I found my way back to Jesus. However, that change did not come overnight, or over a retreat in this case. When FOC came to an end, I found this desire within me to make a radical change in my life, I realized that I could not go on being the same person anymore after experiencing such a tangible encounter with God. It was then that I understood the importance of community, I realized that I cannot walk this journey alone and I needed the support of a community to guide me along.
My Yearning for Something Greater led me towards God
When I first entered CS, I was overwhelmed because I thought to that everyone is ‘so holy’. But as I formed friendships and engaged in open and vulnerable sharing, I realized that we are not here because we are saints, but rather, mere sinners who love and seek Jesus. I felt a sense of belonging, and I felt at home. My Cell Group Leaders(CGL) played a significant role in keeping me committed to CS – updating me on weekly sessions with constant WhatsApp messages, and constantly checking in with me and inquiring about my faith journey. I began to attend weekly sessions without fail, and in fact I looked forward to sessions every week. I forged wonderful Kingdom friendships – my brothers and sisters in Christ who challenged my faith and planted the desire in me to receive the Eucharist daily by attending daily masses. I found serenity in my heart when I began meeting Jesus in the Eucharist (whether it was a quiet personal time with Jesus in the adoration room or attending mass with my brothers and sisters). Instead of finding solace in worldly pleasures, I learnt to find solace in God.
Although I come from a staunch Catholic family, where Sunday masses were never missed, and rosaries were prayed every evening at home – my parents witnessed my faith journey grow tremendously after I entered SIMCS, they saw in me the yearning to be a better person, to be a better daughter of Christ. It is a constant challenge for me to live my faith out in the secular world, especially so in school. There are times where I get so exhausted after being overloaded with school work. However, my community is my refuge and strength in this turbulence – they guide me to focus and keep my gaze on Jesus, and to trust that He will carry me through. It has made me lean on Him more than I rely on my own strength, and that has lightened my burdens and took off many unnecessary baggage off my shoulders.
The Call to Service was Irrefutable
God is Love, and my brothers and sisters in CS are the faces of Jesus to me, because of the love that I receive from them. I discerned and decided to step up to serve CS, to serve His beloved children, even if it meant going far beyond my own small bubble. I decided to serve my community because I have received so much. Many times, I feel apprehensive of my ability and worthiness to serve. However, if there was just one thing I was certain about when I stepped up despite drowning in my insecurities – it was that I desired to bring the light of Christ that my community showed to me, into the lives of many others who are searching for it amidst the darkness that surround them. God transformed my fears into faith, with the help of my brothers and sisters.
A year and a half ago, I would not have imagined myself part of my school’s Catholic community, or stepping up to serve in the executive committee, or even serving SIMCS as a Spiritual Officer! God showed me that if we take one step towards Him, He will take a thousand more steps closer to us. All we got to do is to just take that one tiny step, and He will work wonders for us. So today, I would like to invite you, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, to take that one step closer to Him, be it in your parish, school community or even in your first community – your families. Amen!