This weekend back in my home town of Rockford, IL there will be another Kyrios Retreat taking place. Kyrios 35 to be exact. For those who are not familiar with Kyrios, it is a parish retreat for teens. Kyrios is in many ways responsible for the man I am today.
This morning on my drive to work I was praying and reflecting on my life and reflecting on the conversion moments in my life. In this year of St. Paul I've been thinking about conversion a lot and how greatful I am that God showed me his face in a way that forever changed me so many years ago. But with that comes a general sense of incredible gratefulness for the people God used and placed in my life to show me who He was.
It was January of 1996 and I was a mess. I had had a huge falling out with my friends at school. I was lonely and miserable. At the time I was in confirmation class that was meeting at the Hoffman's, Russ and his wife Helen were our leaders. In that class was a friend from middle school, J.P. Meyers. Ironically enough I had ditched him in middle school because I thought I was too "cool" for him and he was too much of a nerd. Russ had a huge impact on me and had opened my heart to things of the faith in ways I hadn't been before. Because of him I was ripe for the taking. J.P. invited me to come to High School Youth Group, what was then Peer Ministry at the Parish. Even though I had been a jerk to him in the past he extended the invitation and I accepted it. We became friends again for the rest of High School and the first couple years of college. We lost touch after wards but it was merely a loosing track of each other, not a falling out. Thank you Lord for Russ and J.P. whereever they are.
Like I said I accepted J.P.'s invitataion and showed up. I was instantly welcomed into the group. At first I thought all the praying was wierd but the fact that they welcomed me with open arms and invited me to start hanging out with them outside the group instantly showed me there was something different about them and I wanted it! Those first few weeks I became friends with MaryJo, Giz, and Amy. They welcomed me in and showed me Christ in such a subtle way, simply through their welcoming spirit. Thank you Lord for MaryJo, Giz and Amy!
As the months went on I got more involved and met more people. I found a community and then that summer I eventually made a Kyrios. It was Kyrios #7. I met Mary Garbe, now Doestch who to this day is one of my best friends. I met Melissa who became part of my family and I part of hers and had the honor of reading at her wedding last summer. I met Mike. We hated each other at first but now has become one of my best friends. I met Brianna and Nicole. I don't know where they are these days or even if they believe in God anymore but they are a big part of why I'm Catholic today. I met Bill and Dave and a whole mess of other people that became examples to me of Faith and challeneged me to always live my faith and persevere. Most importantly I met Christ. I encountered the person of Christ in every one of these people and powerfully experienced His love in the Sacraments. Thank you Lord for the Kyrios community, especially Melissa, Mike, Mary, and Bill who continue to be a huge source of support for me.
I spent the last two years of High School actively being a part of the Peer Ministry team and continuing to grow in my Faith. Len and Colleen became huge mentors for me. They challeneged me to grow and taught me how to give talks, challeneged me to pray and even made me ask the hard questions. To this day I will never forget the day I was talking to them and told them I really wanted to study Theater and was dead set on it. They turned to me and asked me if that was what God wanted? It forced me to take that question to prayer and really ask Him. Turns out it wasn't what He wanted. I largely thank God for His work through them because it was them answering God's call to be in ministry and develop Kyrios that is the reason I am where I am today. Lord Thank you For Len and Colleen!
There are so many more people I could thank God for putting in my life. I'm sorry if I didn't mention you but know that everyone from the Kyrios community has a special place in my heart and always will.
Today I am hundreds of miles from Rockford. I haven't served on a Kyrios in almost 5years but every time one approaches I pray for it. I may not always write a prayer letter for them but I do pray because I would not be who I am without Kyrios and Holy Family Youth Ministry.
As Kyrios 35 approaches I will be praying and ask all of you to pray this weekend as well because who knows how many lives will be touched and changed in the way mine was 13 years ago.