Spiritual Mentorship: The Blessing of Journeying a Challenging Road With a Faith Supporter

Blurred photo of a woman looking down the center aisle of a church.
Photo by Thomas Vitali on Unsplash.

On the grounds of Elmhurst University in Illinois, there is a beautiful, white chapel. I am waiting there for my spiritual mentor, Kevin. I have recently decided to get confirmed in the Catholic Church and Kevin is the campus chaplain. He walks towards me for our weekly meeting, and honestly, I’m having a bad day. When he asks how I am, I tell him the truth: Living independently on campus can be a struggle. I depend on many people, and that leaves me in a vulnerable position. Kevin assures me he sees me, and I can depend on him.

In these moments, I realize how blessed I am to have good people around me. From the very first moment I met Kevin at a leadership conference, he was at ease with my disability, even feeding me a bite-sized Reese’s. After that conference, I joined the Catholic Students Association. He was the leader, and I liked that he accepted everyone as they were and did not act better than anyone. He focused on how I could contribute to the student group and not what I couldn’t do. He made me feel valued.

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I am a wheelchair user and I use a communication device to speak (along with sassy facial expressions that people who really know me well can understand immediately). I am unable to walk, talk, or feed myself.

In 2008, soon after starting my journey of living independently while having a disability, I realized how difficult my life was going to be. It was full of uncertainty, vulnerability, and dependence on other people to help me do the most basic, human tasks. My exposure to campus ministry fueled my desire to get to know Jesus. I always prayed at night and talked to God throughout the day, but I never chose to explore my faith until college. Counting on Christ above all else made sense in my heart. In Isaiah 41:10, God says to, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you…” God literally says, “I got you,” go do my will, and you’ll thrive. With that core belief, I felt as if things would always work out even if life seemed out of control.

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College was the first time that I had a role model for the spiritual aspect of my life – a spiritual mentor. My relationship with Kevin was the beginning of me realizing mentorship was a critical aspect of my faith life. Conversations with Kevin were about anything and everything. He never put limits on our conversations. This is exactly what Christ wants when we go into prayer. We can put everything on the table, and he simply listens and loves us.

I know people like Kevin are reminders from God that I am supposed to be living independently even though the challenges can be monumental. Honestly, I love my life and would not trade it for the world. But there are overwhelming obstacles that go along with my disability, like struggling to manage my caregivers. They cancel on me at least once a week. It is the most significant burden of having a disability. Relationships with people strengthen my relationship with God. It’s been miraculous to see the people he has put in my life in the right place and at the right time. It’s been miracle after miracle.

Just before being confirmed, my prayer life consisted of talking to God in my head. Kevin encouraged me to explore prayer resources online. This is why having a spiritual mentor is so important. Someone has to push you, challenge you, and celebrate your victories. With Kevin’s encouragement, I found resources on YouTube and other platforms. My favorites include Emily Wilson, and the Hallow app. Additionally, someone has to hold you accountable. After attending Mass and forming deep friendships with the other Catholic students, I decided that the Sacrament of Confirmation was where God was leading me. It was such an exciting time in my life! I realized that after the big celebration of a sacrament, life goes back to normal, and it can be challenging to continue being enthusiastic about your faith. Someone has to be there to remind you of why you made the sacrament to begin with.  After I made the sacrament, life went back to normal. I went to classes and took final exams. Nothing became easier. I simply had been confirmed.

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As I was being confirmed, I thought about how God put a desire to publicly declare my identity as his daughter in my heart. It stayed in my heart. God has been with me through it all. He saw me through the mean girls at middle school and the tumultuous high school years. Even though my family is not religious, they brilliantly supported me at every turn. They are a gift from God. In a way, my parents were always spiritual mentors. They were the first to teach me the golden rule. Jesus starts there. Treat others as you would like to be treated. You don’t have to be a person of faith to teach that. My path was formed by the people He beautifully placed in my life. My path is always leading me to my fullest potential, and he made sure the right people accompanied me. If it weren’t for the people in my path, I would not be the believer I am today. Looking back, I can see Christ in every person who is significant to me.

On the day of my confirmation, Kevin and I made eye contact with each other, and I mouthed “Thank you.” 

His eyes welled up with tears.

I made my baptismal promises with fervor saying “Yes.”

I was confirmed and officially welcomed as a member of the Catholic Church.

God is always near us. He puts people like Kevin in our lives to remind us that He wants us to see him in everyone we meet. I choose to see God in every relationship I have. Christ is in all of us, and I hope people see Christ in me because of the sacrament I made years ago.