By Francesca Santelli
What an experience. I attended Student Leadership Summit (SLS) that was held by Focus Ministries. This event was held in Phoenix Arizona, which is basically just the large Arizona State University campus. If I told you I was not nervous to go I would be lying to you. I took a leap in my faith because I felt like The Lord was calling me to push myself to new heights to help grow my relationship with him. I felt this deep yearning to learn more about how I could bring his love back to campus and the huge city of Chicago. I did it, though. I went regardless of my nerves. I reached out and connected with the University of Illinois Chicago. They welcomed me to join their group. I booked my flight, bought my ticket to the conference, and off I went.
Mind you, I did not know anyone else who was going before I committed. Regardless, I created the best of friendships while there. I was welcomed the second I met the group, and they never made me feel short of being wanted and loved. We learned, laughed, and cried together. It was truly an amazing experience. I learned so much not only about myself, but also learned about a whole new group of people and their hearts.
The mission of Focus Ministries is as follows: “The Fellowship of Catholic University Students is a Catholic collegiate outreach whose mission is to share the hope and joy of the gospel with college and university students, inspiring and equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centered evangelization, discipleship, and friendships in which they lead others to do the same,” (Focus.org).
I share their mission statement with you because that was the main focus of this conference. I learned so much about how to be a better disciple of Christ, and I learned how I can help others with their walk with Christ. I spent 5 days listening to some of my favorite speakers of all time including, Fr. Mike Schmitz, Sister Miriam James Heidland, Sister Bethany Madonna, Emily Wilson, and so many more amazing Catholic speakers. The talks revolved around not only how I can strengthen myself, but now I can go out and lead effective Bible studies, how to be a disciple with other college students, and how to unapologetically live out my Catholic identity. I also got to attend concerts and get lost in the beautiful city of Phoenix with some pretty awesome people. I played Frisbee, danced around, stayed up late and had some deep conversations. It was truly epic.
I fell in love with Jesus again and again when I realized he filled in the gaps where I couldn’t love myself and didn’t know where I needed his love and healing. I let him into the brokenness and the darkest spots in my heart and I let him sit with me and mend the broken pieces. I surrendered all my worries and pains at the foot of the cross in prayer, especially during Eucharistic Adoration. I would be lying to you if I said that any part of this journey has been easy. I would be lying to you if I said that I am perfectly happy and I am healed from past hurts and pains by this conference. But I know that Jesus is the one who is constantly pursuing my heart. In any stage of this journey, in heartbreak or when I am thriving, It is Jesus who is there and will always be here. My mission is to help others seek and find him, too. He is waiting for YOU with open and loving arms. Will you take the leap?