A Glimpse into Household

It’s that time of year again. Although most of the country would say it is too early to think about finding a new home for next September, college students around the country are beginning the search for next school year’s housing. Whether it is a dorm, house, or apartment, students are learning to negotiate roommates, leases, and landlords. And for Saint Paul’s Outreach, this means the beginning of household recruitment.

SPO offers a unique housing opportunity for college students. This housing program, called Household, is an intentional living situation where students can grow in their faith through shared meals, group prayer, in-depth small groups, and Christian community. It is a way for students to push themselves to live out their faith, not only in a small group or at a campus ministry event, but in their whole life. I could go on and on describing household, but the program is more than I could describe in this short blog post. So, let’s hear about it straight from two of the New Jersey Household members.

An Extra Family

Halie Burns is living in the Women’s house for the second year. She is a junior at Seton Hall University. She is a Student Missionary (student leader) for SPO and leads a small group of freshman women. Here is her experience of living in Household:

I started getting involved with SPO my freshman year of college. I was in a small group and went to activities. I learned about the Men’s and Women’s households through those things. I noticed these women said Morning Prayer together, ate dinner together, had fun together, and called each other on to be more active in their faith. These women cared about each other and were practically a family. After witnessing how they lived out their lives I started to notice how I was struggling in mine. I only prayed to God if I needed something and was forced to go to weekly Mass with my family. I never really wanted to go to Mass before; if I have a choice between sleeping and anything else, I usually pick sleep. I didn’t think about how being forced to go to Mass, because I was tired, meant I thought sleep was more important than God. These women however, woke up early multiple days a week just to pray. They enjoyed going to Church; in fact, some of them went multiple times each week.

Living in Household has been one of the greatest blessings God has given me. He gave me this extra family and through them he has given me a piece of himself.

These women were so joyful and loving and so devoted to God. I wanted to be just like them; they instantly became my role models. These little tastes of Household I experienced had captured my heart. It made me realize that I wanted to be a part of a community that loved God and loved me. This love is of a different sort than family love. Your family is biologically programmed to love you; these people choose to love you.

Well, suffice to say I ended up joining household, for the past two years.

The women I have lived with and currently live with are sisters to me; I love all of them so much. They are there for me through thick and thin. They were there for me last semester when my Dad lost his job and they are here for me this semester as my Mom is preparing for surgery next month. These women honestly care about my life and my well-being.

Sure, life hasn’t all of a sudden become a fairy tale because I joined Household. Daily prayer is still a struggle, but my sisters call me on. They ask me to join them in prayer and they push me to pray on my own. Now I even enjoy going to Mass and when I get the chance, I sometimes go to daily Mass. I’ve realized that Mass isn’t a burden put on me, but it’s a time of peace and joy that has a designated spot in my calendar each week. It’s a time to come before God in honor and love.

Living in Household has been one of the greatest blessings God has given me. He gave me this extra family and through them he has given me a piece of himself.

Off the Charts Community

John Trask lives in the Men’s House at Seton Hall and this is his first year in household. He is a sophomore and, like Halie, is a Student Missionary and small group leader. He lived in Boland Hall last year and got involved in SPO by connecting with the Missionaries in Residence (SPO Mission Leaders that live in the dorms). Here is his testimony about his experience in household:

When I came to college last year, I was looking for a close community where I could be heavily involved and enjoy doing so. I came in contact with Saint Paul’s Outreach, and now I’m living in the SPONJ Men’s House, where the community is off the charts.

We [the men living in Household] see each other a lot, sometimes when we don’t want to, or when we would rather be sleeping instead of waking up early on Monday morning, but we always end up enjoying our time with each other, and that, to me, is what community is about. Community is living with, growing, and laughing with one another.

However, living in the Men’s House is not the easy living situation that all the pictures on Facebook may paint it to be. It can be very challenging, and sometimes downright hard. We are constantly growing, whether in prayer, in our outreach, or with each other. In all of this constant growth, you get very close with all of the men in the house. One of the men I’ve grown close with is my roommate. We stay up late at night and talk about our days, things we are dealing with, or sometimes just laugh, for about two hours longer than we should. This time to talk has allowed me to continue to grow in places where I might have stood firm and been stubborn in my ways.

This house and these men are the things I look forward to every day. When I’m at school I’m excited to come home and spend time with them. I know I can come to them with anything, and they will support me when I need them.

For all of its growth and challenges though, the Men’s house has housed some of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. Whether it is one of the guys sleepwalking and putting his roommate’s pants on during the night or breaking out into a session of dancing while cooking dinner on Mondays or Thursdays, I find myself laughing almost all day. This house and these men are the things I look forward to every day. When I’m at school I’m excited to come home and spend time with them. I know I can come to them with anything, and they will support me when I need them.

In three short months I have come to see that the community I saw last year [in the dorms] was only the surface, and I am excited to see how the rest of the year plays out.

 

 

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A Women’s Retreat

Women's Retreat

Women praying during morning prayer at the Fall Women Leaders’ Retreat.

Last weekend SPO and FOCUS hosted retreats for our student leaders. We had separate Men’s and Women’s retreats and both events were very fruitful for both the students and the leaders. The women headed to Camp Vacamas, a retreat center and summer camp west of Seton Hall for a weekend of prayer, small groups, worship, talks, and social time. Although many women had a challenging time coming on the retreat (a lot of women had big tests, papers, or projects next week), the women that did make it were blessed with peace and a great weekend of growing in following the Lord.

As part of the retreat, I gave a talk on fears that can keep women from growing in their relationship with the Lord. I presented the women with six questions to ask themselves about their own fears and things that hold them back in their faith. We met in small groups throughout the weekend to continue talking about the things that keep us from God. Many of the women were challenged by these questions and reflected on ways that fighting the lies that they believe because of these fears can help them grow in their faith. The vulnerability and trust that the women had with one another was incredible and will help them throughout the year as they continue to share their faith journeys.

I really enjoyed helping plan, run, and talk at the retreat. It was one of the most rewarding and life-giving things I have done so far in my ministry work. Throughout the weekend, I imagined what it would be like to run retreats all the time. Towards the end of the retreat, though, I had a realization: the important part of this retreat is not the retreat itself, it is the community and continued growth. The reason that the retreat is so beneficial is because it is a jumping off point for the rest of the year of spiritual growth. The small group that I met with during the retreat is the same small group that I will be meeting with throughout the year. The entire group of women will continue to pray with and for each other as they meet throughout the year. This was not just a one-and-done retreat. This was not just a summer camp or a yearly event, this was one more way to push the women further in their spiritual life and love of Christ, as they continue to grow throughout college. What a blessing it is for me to have a part in that journey, and a journey it is, not just a weekend-long retreat.

There are more pictures to come when I get them from the student photographers. This is the only one I took on my phone. I’ll post them as soon as I get them!

Photo Friday: Halloween Party

Last weekend, SPO and FOCUS at Seton Hall hosted a Halloween party! It was a great night of dancing, talking, eating, and dressing up. It was a welcome alternative to the other Halloween parties around campus that usually feature revealing costumes and drinking. We teamed up with FOCUS (another Catholic missionary group on campus) to put on this event. Ben and I were dressed up like a black and white photo. It took a lot of makeup and hair spray, but, in certain light we definitely looked like an old photo.

SPO Halloween Missionaries

The SPO and FOCUS missionaries.

SPO Halloween Small Group

My small group.