Monday, March 26, 2012

To Rome and back!

I bet those of you who knew I was headed to Rome for Spring break thought I'd title my next post "When in Rome," because obviously you spend so much time wondering what my post titles will be... or not. I gallivanted around Rome and Assisi for a full week and I've already been back in Fargo for a week and in all honesty, it's been a complete blur. 

All 19 of us in Assisi's main square
Now I'm sure you're all just dying to know the details of my trip, or at least you're a good pretender. For those who are pretending, thank you. For those who actually care, I'll try my best to give a good summary. (If the following proves inadequate, feel free to email or call me any time!) The trip was an absolute blast. Period. We prayed a novena the nine days leading up to the pilgrimage and part of the prayer mentioned something to the effect of "giving courage to all those you have called to be on this pilgrimage." That part struck me in particular because I felt like I made a somewhat hasty decision signing up for an international trip two weeks before taking off (here's a plug for having a passport handy!), but it was consistently revealed to me from the very beginning to the very end that the Lord definitely desired for me to be in that group, on that trip and take in all that we experienced. 

I did not take many pictures, but if you would like to see the ones that I'm sharing you can click here to check out my Facebook album. The trip consisted of visiting holy places, churches, and growing in a deeper understanding of our Faith by learning more of the history of the Catholic Church while deepening our own spiritual lives and seeing some beautiful artwork, statues and examples of lives well lived (aka the saints). The patrons of our trip were Sts. Peter and Paul, and rightly so. It seemed like everywhere we went they somehow had left their mark. Whether it was Peter's chains that bound him in prison, their tombs below the altar or their heads above, we Christians owe a HUGE thanks to Peter and Paul for all of their labors to bring the Faith from Jesus himself to the rest of the world. Although I had visited a few of these places before, it particularly struck me this time just how the Church has preserved so many specific things from the very beginnings of Christianity and how now, in the year 2012, people such as myself can go and visit these places to see and touch some of these relics, articles, etc.

A group climbing the Holy Stairs
One of the more moving parts of the trip for me was stealing away from the group and climbing the Scala Santa, the Holy Stairs. These were the stairs that Jesus Christ himself climbed when he was condemned to death by Pontius Pilate, and even preserved under glass cases in a few of the steps are spots where his precious blood dripped to the ground. The trick about these stairs is not simply walking up them and proclaiming communion with Christ for having climbed these same steps that he once did, but rather climbing them on your knees. There are more than just four or five small steps, too. I counted roughly 27 rickety, worn, wooden steps and prayed through each one while silently making my way up, and although it hurt, I knew the pain in my knees was nothing compared to that of Christ himself as he was beaten, scourged, crowned with thorns and ultimately crucified for me.

The last part of the trip I’d like to gush about, if you don’t mind, was not one of our major stops nor even something as seemingly magnificent as having Mass at St. Peter’s, St. Mary Major or St. John Lateran, my favorite of the main basilicas (as well as the pope’s church, where the Bishop of Rome actually presides—not St. Peter’s as many, including myself prior to this trip, believe). It was simply stopping in a beautiful little church tucked just outside of the hustle and bustle of the busy city known as the Domine Quo Vadis Church, "Lord, where are you going?" A humble Church, nearly filled with our group of less than 25 did not draw me because of the beautiful artwork on the walls or ornate decorations, but rather the story behind it. This was a church built on the spot that Peter met Jesus as he was trying to flee the persecutions in Rome and he asked Jesus, Domine quo vadis? Lord where are you going? And Jesus responded, I'm going back into Rome to be crucified again (because Peter was too afraid to accept it). The church particularly moved me because of this and how Peter, our first pope and a great martyr for the faith, was even afraid to accept his own cross, as I am every day. In essence, I just really loved that place and its surroundings and if I unexpectedly take another trip to Rome in the future I'll be sure to return. But for those of you wondering, I did not have the opportunity to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain so if I go back it will be pure luck! (Wink)

I have some more exciting updates on the mission here at NDSU but that'll have to wait for the next post! Happy feast of the Annunciation! "Let it be done to me according to thy word" Thank you for your incredible "yes" Mary!! 

Kelsey Marie

Friday, March 2, 2012

Life is good.

When trying to come up with a post title for this entry, the only thing that came to mind is, "Wow, I'm really happy with the way things are going, life is good." And then that "Life is good" logo came to mind and an obvious Google images search resulted. There are some pretty good images that capture life being good, but I think this guy is my favorite. Big cheesy grin, strummin' the gee-tar, and even has Jesus sandals with a quirky little hat, pretty likeable! Which is funny, because I myself do not possess any of these qualities: I do not play the guitar, have Birkenstock sandals nor, believe it or not, wear quirky little hats, but I enjoy people that do.

Kristen (left), and Jodi (right) with Samantha and I (middle).
Sam and I were both discipled by the same missionary, Gina,
but at different schools and different times! 

The last few weeks have been quite a whirlwind and it always amazes me the potential topics I can include in a blog post after a few weeks...which I suppose is actually a pretty surmountable amount of time for how long-winded I am.  For those of you who received my February newsletter you may have noticed how much I am loooving my job as a missionary. The girls I personally work with, and even those that I've been able to get to know around campus, are growing so much and becoming more and more desirous to share their love for Jesus Christ with their peers.

Whitney, the Lady Bison leading pitcher
Here's an update (although I've never really given you a whole lot of information) on some of the girls in my discipleship chain, although I cannot even begin to describe the love I have in my heart for each of them.

Whitney Johnson, one of the women I disciple, officially started her softball season (and is rocking the HOUSE) and has been on the road Wednesdays-Sundays, but in the few times we've actually been able to meet up her growth in love for Scripture and the Lord have been evident. Kristen Vetter, a senior (and recent star of my newsletter), is currently student teaching and just applied for and accepted a position in FOCUS! We're all very excited for her. Jodi Barth, a senior that graduated in December, will be joining her! We recently went down to St. Paul for an interview weekend and it was fun to spend time getting to know them better, along with the other applicants who are just as excited about the mission. Plus, it was a bonus to reunite with a few of my friends from Madison--both missionaries and applicants--and share some laughs as well as the joys of missionary life.

Jamie bringing the heat, from
the NDSU athletics website
Katie Birkel is still doing rehab from her torn ACL and Jamie Van Kirk, a freshman and the starting point guard on the women's basketball team also recently said yes to discipleship and just tore her ACL this week! Apparently injuries are rampant on the Lady Bison basketball team, losing two of their starting players to ACL tears in just one season. Keep them in your prayers!

Josie Breen and her long red hair signed up for the Fargo Half Marathon in May and encouraged me to join her. It became one of my Lenten resolutions and training so far has been nothing short of F-U-N! I used to run pretty consistently and after I stopped I never really started again and I forgot how much I love it! So we've been running and working out together and it's a total blast.

Josie and I at our finest.
These are the other young women I'm privileged to work and grow with: Victoria Hammond, a first year pharmacy student who recently started discipling Megan, a sophomore, Ginnie Hausladen, a fourth year architect student that just said yes to discipleship and Rachel Freed, a sophomore engineering student who loves working at the rock wall at the NDSU Wellness center and just started discipling Kristen, a freshman.

 If you can't tell, things are going really well for me and my crew here at NDSU. Jenne, Tim and Lucas have equally as many exciting stories, and probably more, and I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of the many blessings I've experienced and received this semester alone as a missionary. 

And the last bit of exciting news from my end is that in only nine short days I will be flying to Rome for a pilgrimage with a group called Young Disciples! The trip was advertised way back in the Fall but I knew I'd be leading a mission trip over Spring break and that I wouldn't be able to go. For those of you who haven't yet heard there was minimal (as in two people actually signed up) interest in the trip so we had to cancel it, and in the process lost a couple hundred dollars in materials, t-shirts, and other fees we had to pay. After having a randomly scheduled dinner with Rachel and her cousin, Msgr. Goering, we found out that it was still possible to sign up and go, so it looks like rather than coming back to Wisco for a week I'll be flying to Italy instead. Not a bad tradeoff. 

I will be praying especially for each of you on our pilgrimage and if I can take any prayer requests with me please send me an email at and I'll add them to my list. 

Many blessings and keep fighting the good fight, in whatever capacity that may be!