Hello, everyone! My name is Ava, and I’m the new Secretary in St. John’s Parish Office. Allow me to tell you a bit about myself.
I grew up in a small town in Connecticut, just outside of New Haven. In 2010, my dad got a new job in Ann Arbor and I’ve lived in that area ever since, except for a brief period when I lived in South Korea and my first two years of college when I attended Ave Maria University in Florida. I have seven siblings–two brothers, five sisters–and I’m number four of the eight. I graduated from Fr. Gabriel Richard High School in 2014 and Eastern Michigan University in 2018.
Growing up Catholic in Connecticut, I attended Church every Sunday, participated in youth groups, and went through the motions believing it made me a “good Catholic.” I never realized that there was more and that God wanted to give me more. After my life got turned upside down ten years ago when my parents decided to move to Michigan–a place I’d never been to or really ever thought about before–I was forced to turn to the Lord in order to get through it. My poor adolescent heart hated that I had to leave my friends and my home. It’s all I’d ever known! Yet, after leaving the comfort of home, I saw my first glimpse of God’s “more.”
I’ll never forget the first time I attended Mass at Christ the King in Ann Arbor. I was shocked that it seemed as if the people at Mass actually wanted to be there. There are a lot of Catholics in the Northeastern United States, but most people are culturally Catholic; they grew up in Irish or Italian Catholic families and received the sacraments, but they usually don’t do much else. Going to Church as a kid, the people who did show up on Sundays often wore sweatpants, didn’t sing, and raced to the parking lot as soon as they received Communion. On the other hand, the devout Catholic families we knew were too ascetic for my tastes. Your parents won’t let you watch TV? Sounds like a nightmare! That’s what I thought of their lifestyle. So, in my young mind, I thought you either had to be the lax Catholic who wears sweatpants to Sunday Mass or the holy Catholic who’s not allowed to do anything fun. Holiness seemed so boring! Why would anyone want to be a saint? Although I believed what the Church taught, I chose not to get too serious about Jesus, otherwise I might become boring as well. Upon moving to Michigan, I saw that those weren’t my only options. I learned that saints didn’t have to be boring. St. Teresa of Avila explained this sentiment perfectly when she said, “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us!” My perspective slowly began to change as the example of the fired-up Catholics around me caused me to rethink some of my opinions.
After I finished high school, Debbie Herbeck asked me to be a counselor at Pine Hills Girls’ Camp and she also started Be Love Revolution around the same time. I’ve been volunteering with them ever since, ministering to middle and high school girls despite feeling radically unqualified to do so. Despite my insufficiencies, the Lord has worked through me and in me. He transformed my life and set me free. I didn’t even know I wasn’t free! But it felt as if my heart had been wrapped in chains and suddenly they disappeared, and it was only after they were gone that I realized they had been there all along. Since that moment, my life has never been the same. Everyday the Lord brings me closer to Himself. I love looking back everyday and seeing how He’s constantly moving in my life.
You may be in the midst of a dry or difficult time in your own story, so I encourage you to keep your eyes on Heaven. The hard times are usually the most fruitful! And no matter where you are in your journey, Jesus is walking with you. Keep running towards him!
I look forward to meeting you all soon!