the Lord’s Call to Spread the
By Lauren McGowan
I didn’t grow up thinking I would become a missionary – in my own country and among young people my age! But this past year I experienced God giving me an invitation to step out into the deep and to take a year to serve as a student missionary for Saint Paul’s Outreach (SPO). This past summer was my first time attending the School of the New Evangelization (SNE), and therefore I had few expectations, but I was eager to soak up as much as I could. God did not disappoint! But first, a little about the program.Saint Paul's Outreach (SPO) began 20 years ago in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, as a Catholic evangelistic outreach to university students and young adults. Since its beginning in 1985, SPO has trained hundreds of young adults to lead evangelistic outreach programs that have served thousands of students on university campuses throughout the USA. SPO is a founding member of Kairos in North America, an international federation of outreaches to high school, university and post university aged people. Lauren McGowan, a Student Missionary for Saint Paul’s Outreach at the University of Minnesota, tells her experience of attending this year’s evangelistic training program and what a difference it has made for her life.
The School of the New Evangelization is a two-week, residential training program run every August by Saint Paul’s Outreach, a Catholic evangelistic ministry to college students. It is an intense, formative environment which envisions and equips university students and staff workers for the task of spreading the gospel on campuses.
This year’s training program was the largest yet with over 145 participants from all over the country, including Texas, Minnesota, Kansas, Ohio, New Jersey, California, Florida, and Arizona. It was a particularly exciting time for those from New Jersey, Arizona, and Kansas, where SPO Mission Centers have been officially founded in the past year.
For the duration of training program, the men lived in households in the Saint Paul Seminary, while the women lived in SPO households near the University of Saint Thomas. Every day began with morning prayer together, followed by time for personal prayer, and classes that lasted the rest of the morning, concluding with Mass. Participants spent the afternoons attending a variety of workshops, enjoying recreation time, and planning for the fall work in their respective chapters.
Participants were split into four tracks, depending mainly on past SNE attendance and SPO involvement: Discipleship Training Academy, Campus Outreach Academy, Leadership Training Academy I, and Leadership Training Academy II. Each had a different focus. For Discipleship Training Academy, it was basic Christian discipleship; for the Campus Outreach Academy. it was the New Evangelization and campus outreach strategies; for the Leadership Training Academy I it was on approaching life as Catholics today; and for the Leadership Training Academy II, it was Christian apologetics and pastoral care. We were very fortunate to have Steve Clark, President of the Sword of the Spirit, with us to teach much of the leadership training material.
God worked powerfully in many participants’ lives, mine included. Prior to the School of the New Evangelization, I found myself unreasonably preoccupied with worrying about the unknowns after my senior year, which will end in May 2009. I was convicted that I needed to take it to the Lord in prayer much more than I had been doing.
The first week at SNE I was finding it hard to keep from being distracted by worrying about my future, and focus on engaging the environment and the training. However, at the end of the first week there was a retreat, and it was during a time of prayer and worship that the Lord worked a small miracle in my life. Halfway through the night I was offering a prayer of thanks to the Lord for all that he had been doing through SNE so far, when all of a sudden I was praying a prayer of surrender to him. As a meticulous planner by nature, the idea that the Lord might call me to anything besides my plan was terrifying to me. I had never been able to give him everything, but had always held onto my plan for my life, hoping that he wouldn’t ask me to give it up. As I was praying, though, he broke through walls that I had spent 21 years building. For the first time ever I was praying, “Not my will but yours,” and meaning it! Words cannot describe how empowering and freeing that moment was as the dark cloud of unknowns vanished and all I knew was the overwhelming peace of Christ, which really does surpass understanding.
Through the School of the New Evangelization God not only gave
me the grace to live wholeheartedly for him, but he also called me to mission,
and I ended up becoming a Student Missionary for SPO at the University
of Minnesota. It is hard to eliminate completely the desire to take my
future into my hands, but surrendering my life to the Lord has now become
a daily prayer. There are still unknowns, but the difference is that I
now truly desire his will, for, “I have been crucified with Christ. It
is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
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