Lauren Dencker (Color Corrected)

A Great Journey Awaits

Have you ever been to a camp? When I was seven years old, I attended a camp called Camp Widjiwagan through the YMCA. I had been looking forward to attending because my brother had gone the year before and this time, we were going together. Not only was I excited to have my own camp experience, I was pumped that I got to spend that time with him. I looked up to him like he was a champion and I wanted to be just like him. Little did I know, I wouldn’t actually spend any time with my brother because he is two years older than me and the camp was divided into age groups. I was a shy kid so once I found this out, I was scared. How was I supposed to navigate this new space without my older brother to look out for me? What if he wasn’t there to protect me?

There was an older girl who took me under her wing and made sure that I was taken care of. She became my go to person because she knew me and knew that I was scared. She made sure that no one bullied me and stood up for me once when someone threw a water bottle at me. I felt cool when I was with her and I felt accepted, especially because I got to sit with the cool kids at the back of the bus on the way to and from camp. She welcomed me and allowed me to flourish in her presence.

Looking back on this camp experience, I am reminded of how during new experiences and transitions I have some fears that might get in the way of embracing the present. I don’t always expect to see God in the people around me yet am constantly humbled by the mercy and kindness of others. In this time after college, I have found myself wondering how I would best use this time. How could I best nurture my time so that I could find where I want to go and figure out who I am becoming in the process? It was important to me to learn how to navigate life in a way that brought good things and helped me grow in my relationship with God.

Thankfully, I have grown since I was seven. I trust myself more and am much taller. When I was discerning my options during the last semester of my senior year at Xavier University, I knew in my gut that accepting this position as an Ignite Intern was the right thing to do. I knew it would provide me the space to discern my next steps, such as graduate school or if I was called to religious life. As a life-long learner, I valued the chance to learn what the JSC was willing to teach me. Most importantly I listened to God calling me in a direction that many did not expect of me. When I first told my mentors of my plans to work at the Jesuit Spiritual Center, some of them were shocked I wasn’t going to graduate school. My family was also very skeptical of my choice. Regardless, I stayed true to myself and trusted that God would teach me and grow me during my time here.

But how could I forget the people who helped shape me? The same way that the girl took me in as a friend, it is easy to see God has provided me with mentors and people who have aided me in my spiritual formation. In many ways, this new experience has already blessed me with a great team who has welcomed me with open arms. Already, they’ve taken up a big space in my heart and I am so excited to grow in relationship with each of them. They have become the brothers and sisters in Christ that I look up to, joke with, and serve God with. To some, it seems like this place “fell into my lap.” Coincidence? I think not. May we all find our way into a loving acceptance of ourselves and the person who God calls us to be.

In this spirit, I am grateful for all the events that have culminated into today. My hope for this year is to deepen my relationship with God, learn more about myself, and what it means to minister. Similarly, I feel as if I am coming to “camp” but this time with more confidence and understanding. For now, I am setting up camp in a place where I’m asked “to be still and know that I am God.” The people who I encounter here will teach me things that a college degree won’t and in ways I cannot begin to imagine. This is just the beginning of a great journey.