Saturday, June 22, 2013

NST, Round Three

Whoa! Looking at my last post it was all the way in the end of April--and there's been no shortage of events, activities and new relationships happening. Currently, I write to you from Ave Maria, FL way way down in Southern Florida for FOCUS' annual New Staff Training (NST, for those of you who love all of our fun acronyms). In previous years, the Newman Center in Champaign, IL at the University of Illinois hosted us, but we've officially outgrown the facilities so we're down here, essentially in the middle of a once-swamp and kind of the middle of nowhere.
I've been here for three weeks now and a description I gave to a friend earlier today perfectly sums up my sentiment about the time thus far: it feels like a really busy and overstimulated extra-long retreat. The setting is almost too good to be true (that is, until our feet and legs get eaten alive by fire ants and other creatures) and the town is literally like a little "Catholic Disney Land." FOCUS told us it would be like that and I didn't believe them...but it's true. I mean the town is pretty much built around the university, and it's pretty cute. Bottom line: Kelsey is happy and doing well...and apparently speaking in the third person now. Weird. I'll cut that right out.

I'll begin by introducing our new team for the 2013-2014 school year at NDSU! (drum roll please....)
You might be thinking to yourself, "wow, those people all look extremely familiar." And well, that's correct.
  • TJ Beyer, army veteran from Albuquerque, NM and our dashing super-evangelist apologist will be returning for his second year. 
  • I, Kelsey Kaufman, graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, from Sauk City, WI will yes, be returning for a three-peat at NDSU!
  • Jane Voelker, 2011 graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, hailing from Wisconsin Rapids, WI will be joining us for her first year on staff after working as an intern at St. Paul's in Madison.
  • Bryan Thiry, formerly known as "BLT" (Beloved Leader of the Team, per Fr. Cheney), graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a diehard Husker, originally from Butte, NE will be re-joining us as the beloved leader of the team, or rather, our team director. (Basically, he's our boss.)
One of the best parts of NST round three is definitely the amazing women in my college. They are all so unique, gifted and a beautiful reflection of femininity and each day that I get to spend with them is a reminder of God's delightful plan for each of us. It's just amazing to think that He set it up so perfectly for us to all be together, for some reason or another, and we are learning a ton from everyone else.
College of St. Agnes!
I would love to relay to you all the cool things I've been learning and re-learning in our classes, but let's just say that when I'm at NST among all of my missionary brothers and sisters, I honestly can't imagine doing anything else. This certainly will fuel my prayer for the next year, that is, how long I want to serve with this incredible organization, but for this year, I know that the Lord is calling me to be a missionary at NDSU. Also, I've been asked many times, "Oh, three years at the same place? Are you the team director?" To clear up any doubts, no, in fact, I am just your average third-year missionary, loving the North Dakota mish (as in missionary) life. There are a few (literally, probably 3) others in the same boat as me, so if I feel self-conscious about that I just have to remember I'm not the only one.

Just an average day at Ave.
To be honest, and this shouldn't surprise you, I've had this blog post open for about two weeks now, thinking I'd finish every single night before going to bed. Well, by the end of the day I can muster up just about enough energy to walk upstairs to the chapel, get a little night-cap with Jesus, and then head to bed. To be honest, I'm writing to you on a day when most missionaries are not on social media, seeing as this weekend is retreat weekend for us. This year there were three different options to choose from (because there's so many of us!!), and right when I decided which one I would choose, Fr. Kevin Dyer, one of the Jesuits that led our 8-day silent retreat last year, asked me if I'd be willing to help spiritually direct the missionaries making one of the silent retreats.

.....insert awkward response by Kelsey here.....

I decided to offer it to the Lord and that if He needed me I'd be more than happy to help. There are three other missionaries helping out, and the reason is because we were all on the 8-day Ignatian Silent retreat last year, and this retreat is a modified version of it. Essentially, we have a semi-recent experience with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius so we can help the newbies with their potentially first encounter with the Exercises.

Perhaps now that I've finally finished my first "NST update" I'll give you a few more before my time here is over. Let me just conclude with a few thoughts:
1) Please keep myself and the other missionaries in your prayers, especially this weekend with the retreats!
2) I love being a missionary, and I also love being here at Ave Maria, FL.
3) Only 18 days until I board an airplane for the Camino de Santiago!!