As a mother of eight, it is not easy to get away from home. Several months ago, my son Eric told me he wanted us to go to the SLS18 Conference in Chicago from January 2-6.
I said no.
Yet. I am currently at the SLS18 Conference in the Windy City.
“SLS” stands for Student Leadership Summit.
Since my daughter Rachel, newly accepted as a FOCUS Missionary, wants a play-by-play of the conference, I decided to give highlights from each day.
Because that’s what mamas do for their hungry birds.
Okay, Rachel, SLS18 Day One Highlights:
- I witnessed kindness in action as Marilee (you know how fabulous she is!) willingly drove to the airport to pick up your brother, Eric. The traffic was thick. The air was frigid. Her sacrifice warmed me.
- MASS. Oh.my.stars.
- 8,000 college students (plus a gazillion priests, religious and laity). Together. Celebrating.
- The male student sitting behind me at Mass. His voice was amazing. I closed my eyes and allowed his voice to lift me. I put a tracking device in his coat so I could always be near him at Mass.
- The Benefactor Reception. Guess what? If you sponsor missionaries, you are treated REALLY WELL at SLS. They wined and dined us. The food was spectacular.
- I sat at a table with four beautiful women. From Nebraska. From Lincoln. From St. Peter’s Parish. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Eric and I spoke at St. Peter’s in October. We fell in love with their principal, Sr. Mary Michael. Coincidence? I think not. Those women have a thirst for Jesus. Beautiful.
- MichaelAnn Martin spoke at the reception. She is the wife of Curtis Martin. Afterwards, as we were leaving the reception, we saw MichaelAnn speaking with someone. Eric said, “Mom, there’s your chance.” He knew I wanted to meet MichaelAnn. She warmly greeted us and I blurted out, “I want to be your friend.” I am smooth, so very smooth in social situations.
- The Evening Ended with two keynote speakers in the main conference center.
- Kelsey spoke with elegance and grace. I appreciated her style. She reminded me a lot of you, Rachel. Beautiful and real.
- She asked: How did you get here? She had us think of all of the events that led up to our arrival. It was interesting to dwell on all that had to happen to make it happen.
- Her main message: there are two parts of evangelization: Allowing God in to rearrange your furniture, transforming all. Then allowing Him to reach others through you.
- She told a poignant story of her dad. He was a nominal Catholic, just going to Mass and sitting there like the other drones. She invited him to a deeper place, a place of union with Jesus.
- How did she do that? Through her JOY. Not with her condemnation or judgment or preaching. I spoke with Kelsey’s mother and she told me that their ENTIRE FAMILY had fallen away from the faith. Kelsey’s mom told me of a vivid memory: her son was standing by the kitchen sink and he told her, “I want what Kelsey has.” Kelsey’s joy and love, which radiated from every pore, transformed her family.
- Okay, back to her dad. He eventually started seeking Jesus on his own. He went to a Bible study and began studying Scripture. Kelsey was blown away. They started having great conversations.
- One of his questions: why all of the suffering? It didn’t make sense to him. If God was so good, why evil, sin and death?
- Kelsey’s response which she credits to the Holy Spirit, was, “Dad, death is not the worst thing. Living this life without Jesus is the worst thing.” She wasn’t sure he heard her or her words.
- Then her dad was dealt a difficult hand: he had a severe, quick-moving cancer. Her father handled it with grace. Kelsey asked him why. He replied, “Death is not the worst thing. Life without Jesus is the worst thing.”
- Kelsey didn’t delve into his death, which I appreciated. I mean, she could have given us the play-by-play. Instead, she chose to give us the awe of his surrender. I am still crying.
- Kelsey’s message: Be Transformed. Allow Jesus in. He wants to transform those in your life.
Bishop Robert Barron
- Okay, Rachel, you already know and love Bishop Barron. For those of you that do not know him, go to Word on Fire. He uses the tools at his disposal to evangelize. Seriously. He goes after souls. I love him.
- His keynote message: don’t dummy down the rich history of our faith. If our children can memorize all of the characters and nuances from Star Wars (or Pokemon, or The Avengers) then they can learn about the Patriarchs and Prophets. AND IN FACT, they MUST know the history. THEY ARE PART OF THE HISTORY!
- Bishop Barron encouraged us to speak truth. He said that Dr. Scott Hahn once told him that everyone quotes St. Francis as saying, “Preach always. If you must, use words.” Bishop said he always had a nominal dislike for that quote. Dr. Hahn told the Bishop that he could not find where St. Francis actually said that…and he in fact thinks we MUST USE EVERYTHING AT OUR DISPOSAL, especially words, to preach and teach and evangelize. The world is hungry for truth.
- I loved that. He gave me permission to continue to write and speak and point people to Jesus in real ways.
The message I keep seeing/hearing: YOU WILL DIE ONE DAY. HOW WILL YOU LIVE?
Lots to ponder.
Of course, I am walking around, bumping into all sorts of amazing people. I am praying to Our Lady that I can meet Fr. Michael Gaitley, so I can tell him how much he has impacted my life. I have not seen him yet. But I keep praying that I will.
Okay, dear daughter, that wraps up day one, January 2, 2018. I will give you Day Two Highlights tomorrow. I love you.