Becoming Salesian


January is a big month for the Salesian Community. We celebrated the feast of three major Salesian saints: Blessed Laura Vicuna, St. Francis de Sales, and finally St. John Bosco. As we were busy preparing for these feasts and celebrations and now are getting back into our normal routines, I have been reflecting a lot on what it means to be a Salesian and how I ended up becoming part of this wonderful family.

I consider myself to be particularly blessed that I grew up hearing and loving the stories of the saints. If I am being honest, I think that I loved the saints before I truly came to love God. From watching cartoon movies about their lives, looking through my mom’s big tupperware of saint cards (my favorite card was St. Lucy’s and I used to gawk at her holding a platter with eyes on it), and learning which saints you pray to for every little thing, I developed a true love and fascination with many of the saints. Yet while I knew who St. John Bosco was (mainly because there was a parish named after him located across the street from my lifelong dentist office), my prior knowledge about him was limited to two facts: he was an Italian priest and he could juggle. Yep, that was it.

I have also had the opportunity to interact with many religious orders and communities. My high school was run by the Sisters of St. Basil and at the Catholic University of America there were countless religious orders around us: Franciscans and Dominicans of all kinds, diocesan, Benedictine (shout out to FC), Marians, and on and on. I am sure that I have but, if I am being honest, I cannot remember ever meeting a Salesian prior to the SLM program. Yet here I am.

Despite my little knowledge of Don Bosco and the Salesians prior to last spring, I somehow ended up in Cambodia living and working in a community of Salesian sisters where I am teaching as a Salesian Lay Missioner in a Don Bosco Vocational School for Girls. As I reread that sentence I can’t help but laugh. My life has become incredible Salesian and I could not be happier about it.

Especially being someone who wants to pursue a career in Catholic education and ministry, I find the Salesian charisms and teachings to be extremely relevant to my life. As I learn more and more about the Salesian spirituality and mission, I find myself continually nodding my head in agreement. I remember at my discernment weekend for the SLM program I continually found myself saying, “This is it. This is what I want.” And I wasn’t only saying that about what I wanted in a one year mission program, I’ve realized that this is what I want for my whole life.

For me, being a Salesian is all about choosing joy and choosing love. It has been about meeting the young where they are and sometimes in places where I am uncomfortable. This means dancing with my students no matter how much I would prefer not to, simply smiling and trying to remain present when everything is in Khmer and I have no idea what is happening at a meeting or event, not letting the heat or the million bug bites or the fact that I am perpetually tired stop me from being joyful and engaging with people, trying to eat my seventh plate of rice when we are visiting the homes of the students and I feel as though if I eat just one more grain I will explode, being kind to my students no matter how frustrated I am that they just don’t get it, trying my best to remember everyone’s names and to call them by that and to ask how they are doing and genuinely care.  It is about being both a teacher and a student at the same time and at all times. It is about playing and praying and smiling and just simply loving.

Sometimes, that is easy. There are days that I smile constantly, teach, play, pray and simply love with this enthusiastic joy. Those days are awesome and I think “Don Bosco was brilliant! I totally have this figured out.” Then there are days that I am hot, tired, itchy, on the other side of the world, and my students can’t remember to put articles in their sentences no matter how many times I tell them and I think “This is it, this is how I go officially crazy at the age of 23.” It is on those days that I admire Don Bosco the most. He encountered difficulty after difficulty far more serious than mine but he never stopped loving or serving.

I’ve realized that being a Salesian and a Christian is about saying “yes” to those I encounter and often saying “no” to myself. There are so many times that if I was offered the opportunity to play with the students or to go lie in my bed under the fan that this sweating, exhausted missionary would be so tempted to choose the latter. There are times that my desk is full of homework and tests to grade and I have a long list of emails to respond to and I think, “I can’t possibly go to play at the gate or to stay late talking to the students.” But that is not what Don Bosco would do and I strive to be as self-sacrificing as him and to devote myself to loving, praying for and with, educating, and playing with the young.  This is no easy task but living in this mentality has without a doubt made me a more joyful and loving person. Living as a Salesian has challenged me to find the joy in everything and in everyone. For that I will be forever changed and forever grateful.

While I might not be a Salesian Lay Missioner for the rest of my life, I have no doubt that everything that I have learned from Don Bosco, Mother Mazarrello, the Salesian Saints, and the Salesian community will shape my faith and ministry for the rest of my life. I have learned so much in my three and a half months here already and know that there is still so much more to come in my remaining months. I still have a lot to learn about Don Bosco, the Salesians, teaching, and my own faith but I’m excited for the both the joys and the challenges that it will bring. Regardless of whether I teach in a Salesian school or under the title of anything Salesian, I want to be a Salesian educator. I can’t imagine being anything else.

So thank you, Don Bosco, for everything that you have done for my students, for all of the students and those who are served by your Salesians, and for the education that you are just beginning to give me. Don Bosco and Mary Help, pray for us!

Happy Feast of Don Bosco to the Salesian community in Cambodia…


…and to all of the Salesian communities around the world (especially my favorite SLMS)!




Welcome to Cambodia!

Today marks one month in Cambodia!  This past month has been filled with many new things, laughter, joy, attempts at speaking khmer, rice, bug bites, sweat, and so many wonderful people.  I absolutely love Cambodia and the people that I have encountered here!  I am so excited for the adventures that lie ahead for me during my year here. Here is a little bit of what I have been up to since arriving in Cambodia.

One month ago, Cara and I met at the airport and made the long trek to Cambodia together.  Our flight to Seoul, South Korea was fifteen hours long and after a two hour layover there we had a five and a half hour flight to Phnom Penh.  This gave me plenty of time to watch five movies: Inside Out (which I LOVED.  Imagine me on a dark plane, clutching my teddy bear, with tears streaming down my face), Noble (really good – I definitely recommend looking into it), Ant Man (I was kinda disappointed), Casablanca, and Roman Holiday (both of which I love).  When not binging movies, I still had plenty of time to read, attempt to sleep, just hang out and try to process the fact that I was currently on my way to Cambodia.

We had a very warm welcome when we got off the plane in Cambodia.  After getting our visas and picking up our baggage, we headed toward the exit. Above the crowd of people waiting, we saw an arm waving and a flash of Clare’s face.  Sure enough, Clare was there with her camera ready and some of the sisters from both of the schools here in Phnom Penh were there to greet us with a sign, hugs, scarves, and love.  As you can see we were pretty excited to be off of the plane and finally in Cambodia!










Our welcoming party

Our welcoming party – and all of my stuff… oops.

Since our arrival we have been very busy (and very happy).  Cara is at our school in Toul Kork (not far from us in Phnom Penh) and I am at the site in Teuk Thla with Clare.  Here are some of the things that have been keeping us busy (and from blogging):

Exploring Phnom Penh

SLM afternoon in the city

SLM afternoon in the city

We are pretty busy and content on our compound but I have slowly been gathering my bearings around Phnom Penh.  I thought that I was done with cities until I landed in Phnom Penh and fell in love.  It is unlike any other city that I have ever been in and I am thoroughly enjoying slowly exploring and coming to know it better!

Spending Time with Community

Our community celebrating Clare's birthday

Our community celebrating Clare’s birthday

Since the moment I arrived, I have felt so welcomed and loved the community that we have here.  Clare, the sisters, the students, teachers, and staff all have an incredibly joyful and loving community that I am so grateful to be apart of.  From community prayer and meals to birthday celebrations (we have had three so far!) and all playing and talking to the girls I have been thoroughly enjoying our awesome community.  I am so happy to be spending my year with these people!


The first year students' classroom

The first year students’ classroom

I love teaching and my students!  At our school we have kinder-10th grade and a two year vocational program for girls.  I am teaching English and Computer to the girls in the Food Technology and Hotel Services Vocational School.  My students range in ages from 15-25 and are so sweet and funny! These past three weeks of teaching have certainly had their challenges but I am loving it so much!

Home Visits to the Provinces

One of my students and her family

One of my students and her family

Once a month the sisters spend a day visiting the homes of our students who live with us.  These students are generally from villages in the provinces and live hours away from Phnom Penh.  So far I have been blessed to accompany the sisters to home visits in villages in the provinces of Kampong Cham, Prey Veng, and Kandal.  I am definitely looking forward to more home visits with the sisters, my students, and fellow teachers.  It is a very humbling experience and I love to see my students proudly showing off their homes and families.



Maybe as a teacher I should not say that after school recess is my favorite part of the day but I would be lying if I said that it was not one of my many favorite parts of my days here in Cambodia.  After school I usually go to the gate and play with the kids while they are waiting to get picked up and after dinner the boarding students have recreation which me, Clare, and the sisters join.  There is a lot of dancing, sports, chatting, questions, and exchanges of english/khmer.



Our days are sandwiched by prayer and it has been such a nice way to begin and end these busy and hot days.  In the morning we have morning prayer and Mass and then in the evening we have meditation, rosary, evening prayer and twice a week we have adoration.  It has also been so nice to stop into the chapel in between classes!  We also attended an overnight prayer vigil for vocations at the other FMA (Salesian Sisters) site in Toul Kork that was an awesome witness to the Catholic Community here in Phnom Penh and a really beautiful occasion.  Please let me know if I can pray for you and keep all of us in your prayers as well!

Other highlights include: Clare and I’s encounter with a HUMONGOUS  snake outside of our volunteer house, tuk tuk rides, volunteer nights and chats with Clare and Cara, awesome fruits, singing Hamilton with Clare, American embassy friends, lots of reading (thanks to my lucky scharm), dancing with the sisters to The King of Glory, dinners with Clare and Chantha, explaining to the kids that Clare and I are not sisters or related or knew each other in America, practically gluing my face to the windows whenever we drive anywhere, moto rides and markets, $1 movie stores, catching up with people at home, naps at my desk in the teacher room, and pretty much everything.

It has been such an exciting and wonderful month – and it is just the first one!  I’m excited to share more of my experiences in Cambodia with you this year!

The Farewell Tour

Alright, I know that this blog is called “Colleen In Cambodia” and is supposed to chronicle my missionary year in Cambodia but here is the thing: I’m not in Cambodia yet.  And I’m not a student anymore.  And I don’t have a job right now.  So this 57 day period between the end of orientation and the day that I will be getting on the plane for Cambodia is a very strange time in my life.

So what’s a missionary in waiting to do?  Instead of just sitting around waiting and freaking out and excitedly counting down the days and watching too much Netflix, I decided to go around and see some of my favorite people in some of my favorite places and some new places as well.

Now believe me, there were a lot of lazy days.  I feel like I wouldn’t be telling the whole story if I didn’t admit to the many seasons of Grey’s Anatomy that I watched when I wasn’t doing these fun things.  But we won’t spend much time on that…

St. Louis

The first step on the Farewell Tour was to St. Louis to see the one and only Lauren Scharmer with a surprise guest appearance by Fr. Christian!  My time in St. Louis was the perfect mix of relaxing with Lauren (as we do best) and then getting to see St. Louis and meet some of her friends and coworkers.

You can't get the whole arch in the picture and you can't get the construction out of the picture.

You can’t get the whole arch in the picture and you can’t get the construction out of the picture.

I obviously had to touch the arch.

I obviously had to touch the arch.  Lauren Obviously had to take a picture.

One of the coolest parts of getting to experience Lauren’s life in St. Louis was getting to go to Lauren’s Wednesday night youth group meeting.  I got to sit on the floor with a bunch of high schoolers with my heart bursting with pride as I watched my friend do what she does best – share the love of Christ. Probably my favorite part was when one of the girls ran up to Lauren and told her that she saw a priest in target and made him give her a blessing.  If you know Lauren Scharmer, you know that this is a sure sign that Lauren has been teaching them a thing or two.

Since Lauren and I are both fans of long car rides and even bigger fans of Fr. Christian, we drove from St. Louis to St. Meinrads in Indiana to visit with our favorite Benedictine monk!  I’m not even ashamed to admit that the car rides there and back consisted of Lauren and I screaming – I mean singing – along to Kelly Clarkson, High School Musical, and the likes.

Getting to spend time with Fr. Christian was probably one of the best and most unexpected blessings of the summer.

wpid-img_20150828_235118.jpg 20150828_171451


After a couple of days at home recovering from my St. Louis adventure, I got in the car and headed to Boston to visit Delaney.  Now, I love long car rides but I now know that I still love them even when they include part of my car suddenly scraping against the ground, frantic calls home, a ride in a tow truck, drinking tea in a teeny tiny mechanics shop, getting stuck in traffic, almost running out of gas, and finding out that there is not one, not two, but three BC campuses.  Yep, still love ’em.

wpid-fb_img_1441548562417.jpgSo after a much longer and much more eventful day of driving than I had expected, I
finally made it to BC’s main campus and was suddenly back in Taylor’s truck like Salesian Orientation had never ended.  Shout out to Taylor for staying on the phone with me for twenty minutes as I tried to figure out which campus I was on.  We met up with one of the other SLMs, Colleen, for drinks and dinner.  It was so nice to see two of my fellow SLMs before they headed off to South Sudan!

Like my time with Lauren, Delaney and I split our time relaxing and exploring Boston. There were a lot of moments of just sitting enjoying coffee, splitting a quiche and an eclair, or enjoying some Trader Joe’s chocolate chip scones (which both Delaney and I HIGHLY recommend).

But then there were also moments where we were hurridly cooking A LOT of hot dogs in Delaney’s crock pot and oven for her program.  And thanks to one of Delaney’s lovely coworkers, we ended up getting two tickets to the BC football game.  Having not gone to a school that was very passionate about sports, it was a fun and different experience for both of us and I’m glad that I was able to join Delaney in attending her first BC football game.

Night Shift Brewery

Night Shift Brewery

Shortest Path Distillery

Shortest Path Distillery

In an attempt to not simply sit around and eat scones all day (which we would have been happy to do), we headed to Night Shift Brewery for a tour and some drinks.  The Brewery was very new and really cool!  There were games on the tables, a couple arcade games, and some fun decorations.  I would totally hang out there if I lived in Boston.

On a cardboard sign we saw that there was a distillery down the road and decided to check it out.  So we walked down a strange little alley and into a distillery that was pretty hidden but was AWESOME.  They gave us some tastings, a tour, and we had some really delicious watermelon cocktails.  We ended up hanging out there for a while playing cards and eating goldfish.  We pretty much decided that when I come back from Cambodia I need to move to Boston so that we can go there more often and befriend them.  After the distillery we hung out with some of Delaney’s friends and then ended the night with two boxes of mac and cheese which is arguably how every night should end.

We also got to spend a day in downtown Boston with Kat!  Looking back on our day, it mostly consisted of us walking from food to coffee to food to ice cream with a lot of lovely sight seeing in between.  I love Boston and was happy to wander the streets and walk by the water catching up with two of my favorite people!


Like the ride to Boston, the ride home from Boston had it’s moments.  In one of my most classy moments, I got to sit in a Massachusetts parking lot and duct tape part of my car together and pray the rest of the way home that the duct tape did the trick while I drove home embarrassingly and annoyingly slow.  But hey, I made it!

Washington D.C.

I also went to DC for a rather poorly documented weekend.  It was both weird and wonderful to be back in the district.  There were moments that it felt like I had never left and other moments when I was very aware that that was not where I belong anymore.  But it was nice to see so many wonderful people and to get to have my own little homecoming!  I was so grateful for simple CUA things like sitting in CM, walking through the Pryz, going to Mass in the Basilica, sitting on the floor eating Pizza Boli’s at 1 am, margs at San An’s, sleepovers with Sarah and Kat, chatting with Camilla, and game night at the Romano House.  It was great to come back “home” for a weekend and to see so many people that I love and miss!

sm in san annes Capture


Once I went to college, I didn’t get to spend all that much time at home.  I stayed in DC for two of the summers and the longest time I would spend at home was usually Christmas vacation.  This summer, despite some travels, was the longest that I have been home since before college and gave me plenty of time to enjoy it and explore it.  I walked around the city A LOT, tried to visit as many churches and shrines in the area that I could, ate all of my favorite Philly foods, and simply relaxed at home and in my hammock.  There were a lot of days that I was eager to do something but I am grateful for the quiet time that I had to relax and prepare myself for mission.

Oh right and the Pope came to visit for my birthday!  I would like to formerly apologize to everyone who had to listen to me whine about how Pope Francis was coming to my school and saying Mass in my city on my birthday and I was going to be in some other country somewhere because SURPRISE! I’m still in America and while I didn’t get to see Pope Francis in DC (apologies to the people who had to hear me whine about that) I did get to spend my birthday weekend with him in Philly!

Upon realizing that I was going to be in town for the event, I signed up to volunteer at the World Meeting of Families in the last hour of the last day that you could sign up (typical).  From Tuesday to Friday, I  volunteered at the Youth Congress (which was awesome) and got to use my volunteer shirt and badge as an excuse to wander around the conference (which was also awesome).  My family also attended the Festival of Families on Saturday and the Mass on the parkway on Sunday.

While there are a lot of moments that I wish that I was already in Cambodia, I am really grateful that I got to be in Philly to share this experience with my family and my home city.   Plus, when the Pope throws you a birthday party on the parkway, you can’t say no to that!


fam squad

The week before I left we also had a nice goodbye party with my family and some friends.  It was really nice to see some people that I hadn’t seen in a while and to have a chance to talk and say goodbye to so many before heading off for a year!

Other Philly highlights included: Sleepovers and burgers with Hannah, purple hair dye, WAWA and ice cream, hammocking, packing (which was super fun NOT), lots of walking, arts and crafts, wearing all the sweaters and flannel that I can while resisting buying more (they definitely aren’t very Cambodian weather appropriate), cleaning/purging my room, and trying to convince myself that this is in fact real life.

Next stop: Cambodia!

Be Not Afraid (Well Maybe A Little)

"Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” - Deut 31:6

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” – Deut. 31:6

Last night, Cara and I officially and finally booked our flights to Cambodia. Clarification: our one way flights to Cambodia.  With one click, this whole moving-to-Cambodia-thing again became a little bit more real.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a really exciting moment but there was also a part of me that was terrified and it definitely wasn’t the first moment that I have been terrified throughout this experience. And I haven’t even made it to Cambodia yet.

Not that long ago, if you asked me if I was scared to move to another country on some other continent for a year or more of service, I would have shrugged my shoulders and told you that I wasn’t or if anything I would have admitted to being maybe a little bit scared.  Well I will now admit to you and to myself that I am in fact quite scared.

When I first realized I was scared of going to Cambodia, I was ashamed, embarrassed and disappointed in myself.  I, Colleen Quigley, the girl who has dreamed and prayed and planned on going on mission after college for years and years was actually scared of going on mission when the time came.  I wasn’t in fact the fearless missionary that I had always dreamed of being and that was almost devastating.

To be clear, I’m not scared of Cambodia itself.  I can deal with bugs, dirt, new food, animals, discomfort, new people, and whatever else Cambodia has in store for me.  And honestly, I don’t really know what to expect so I am not going to spend my time worrying about it.  Maybe that is naive but right now I’m not scared of Cambodia.  I know that God will keep me safe and I trust the Salesians and SLM program to do so as well.

But I am scared of a year away from my family and friends.  I am scared of missing them so much that my heart physically hurts.  I’m scared of not being able to be the best daughter, sister, or friend because I am thousands of miles away in Cambodia with limited access to internet, no phone, and no way of being able to give or get a hug to and from those back home.  I’m scared of missing birthdays, holidays, ordinary days, engagements and weddings, the best days and the worst days, and all the days in between.  I’m scared of coming back home and finding out that everyone has moved on and found their place and I will be starting over yet again.  And maybe mostly, I’m scared of making sacrifices that are going to affect me for more than just this year of service.

Oh, and I am scared of sunburn too.

But then I realized that I am glad and maybe even proud that I am scared.  I want God to ask me to do things that scare me and I want to say “Yes” to doing them no matter how scary they may seem to me.  Doing a missionary year in Cambodia might be the scariest thing that God has asked me yet but it certainly isn’t going to be the last scary thing and might not even turn out to be the scariest.  Now, I am not trying to give you any ideas, God. There are scary things like moving to Cambodia and then there are scary things like starting a conversation with someone or even posting a silly blog post. I’m not expecting all Cambodia-sized requests from God but I know that He will ask me to do scary things that come in all shapes a sizes, whether it is in regards to my vocation, my future career, my relationships, or my desire to live a Christian life.  And I’m just praying that I can continue to say “yes” to Him no matter the size or the strings attached.

When talking about her post-grad plans, I remember my friend Lauren saying, “There is something to be said in the Christian life for doing things that scare you.”  Well, I can’t even tell you how many times I have reminded myself of that these past few months.  Yes, while there is some unexpected fear mixed in with my ever growing excitement about this upcoming year, I have no doubt that this experience, as terrifying and intimidating as it might seem at certain moments, is going to lead to some of the most rewarding and incredible moments of my life and a deeper relationship with Christ and love for His people.

So yes, there are definitely moments where I am scared when I think about what I am about to do but I’m learning to be ok with that.  I pray that God will help me to not spend my time worrying about what I am missing at home but let me be fully present in Cambodia where He has intended me to be and be grateful for this incredible experience that I am about to embark on.  So Cambodia, here I come with my fears, my hopes, my prayers, and my heart ready to serve and (hopefully) ready for the adventure that God has in store for me.

SLM Training and Orientation

For the past three weeks I have been in New York preparing for my upcoming missionary year in Cambodia with my fellow Salesian Lay Missioners (SLMs).  Going into this three week orientation and training experience, I had no idea what was in store for me.  I didn’t really know what we would be doing, where we were staying, and only knew the people from my discernment weekend who had also decided to do the program.  I never would have imagined, however, that these past three weeks would be so full of joy, laughter, prayer, and affirmation that I had chosen the right program.

Orientation consisted of one week of cross cultural training, one week of service, and one week of retreat.  Each week was wonderful and completely exhausting in its own way.  I have absolutely no idea how I am going to fit these three crazy weeks and all of the pictures that I want to share into one blog post so bear with me.

Our first week consisted of getting to know each other, cross cultural training, celebrating some birthdays, and lots of walking.  Julie from From Mission to Mission came to do our cross cultural training.  She was full of incredible stories, advice, and knowledge.  We were very happy to have a free and a fun weekend to enjoy the city, visit friends, and go to a Met’s game!

Mission to Mission

The SLMs with Julie from Mission to Mission

Driving around New Rochelle and New York in our Don Bosco bus with Bus Driver Manny

Driving around New Rochelle and New York in our Don Bosco bus with Bus Driver Manny.

After a train, walking through downtown NYC, a bus that I almost didn't make it on, not knowing where to get off, getting off on the side of the road and using a kind couple's car charger, I found my people!

After a train, walking through downtown NYC, a bus that I almost didn’t make it on, not knowing where to get off, getting off on the side of the road and using a kind couple’s car charger, I found my people!



We never could get everyone to look…

During our second week of orientation, we did service at the Don Bosco Community Center and the summer camp run by the Salesians in Port Chester, NY.  They were early mornings and long days but working at both the community center and camp were really fun and an awesome experience.  In the community center we helped to paint, clean, and worked in the soup kitchen, open pantry, and open closet.  At the camp we just put Don Bosco’s love of children to use and played and had fun with the kids.

During our week serving in Port Chester, we prayed and ate meals with the Salesians at the parish there.   Brother Sal, a Salesian Brother and carpenter, is building the chair that will be used at the Mass with Pope Francis in Madison Square Garden in September.  He invited us over to his workshop where he was working on the chair and even let us all sit in the unfinished product!  One of the many awesome things about this is that Brother Sal isn’t building the chair on his own – there are a number of Don Bosco Workers who are working with him.  Don Bosco Workers is a grassroots community-organizing group led by Latino immigrant day laborers and other low-income workers in Port Chester who work to ensure that immigrants and day laborers are treated fairly and with dignity!  It is AWESOME.  Also, Cardinal Dolan visited the workshop the day after us.

Brother Sal working on the chair

Brother Sal working on the chair.

I sat in it first, Pope Francis! Sorry if I got some sweat and paint on it...

I sat in it first, Pope Francis! Sorry if I got some sweat and paint on it…









Surprise visit to the beach!

Surprise visit to the beach!

We enjoyed a barbecue with Deacon Billy and members of the Port Chester community.

We enjoyed a barbecue with Deacon Billy and members of the Port Chester community.


A beautiful 40-something foot statue of Mama Mary

A beautiful 40-something foot statue of Mama Mary at the retreat center

After our week of service at Port Chester, we headed to the Marian Shrine in Stony Point, NY for retreat with the Salesian priests and brothers (SDBs).  Every one kept telling us that the first two weeks of orientation were good but that our retreat week would be the best part of the orientation.  The first two weeks were awesome but the retreat week definitely didn’t disappoint!  It was nice to get out of the city and to enjoy the beautiful retreat center, to have plenty of time to pray and reflect, as well as to get to hang out with the SDBs who are all AWESOME.  They welcomed us into the Salesian family with such love and joy.


Fr. Mike is an avid hiker and broke us out of the retreat center one day to take us to the top of Bear Mountain.  It was a gorgeous day and a fun adventure for us all.  As it turns out, hiking up a mountain is a lot of work but it was a beautiful day and we all thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and the view.

SLMs take on Bear Mountain

SLMs take on Bear Mountain

We made it to the top!

We made it to the top!

Thank you for the hike, Fr. Mike!

Thank you for the hike, Fr. Mike!







Other than our hike, we spent the rest of the retreat enjoying the company of the SDBs, praying and reflecting, playing and enjoying the beautiful retreat center, and laughing… a lot of laughing.  The three weeks of training flew by and soon it was time to be commissioned and to head back home to prepare for our missions.  We had a commissioning Mass, celebration with the SDBs, and then all said sad and some tearful goodbyes.

Receiving my missionary cross... which got stuck on my face... and in my bobby pin...

Receiving my missionary cross… which got stuck on my face… and in my bobby pins… of course.

Cara, my site partner, and I after commissioning Mass.

Cara, my site partner, and I after the commissioning Mass. Here we come, Cambodia!










It's official: I'm a Salesian Lay Missioner! I signed the papers!

It’s official: I’m a Salesian Lay Missioner! I signed the papers!

The commissioned Salesian Lay Missioners 2015!

The commissioned 2015 Salesian Lay Missioners!  2 to Cambodia, 1 to Vietnam, 2 to Bolivia, 2 to Florida, and 6 to South Sudan.

Yes, I know that I have said the word “joy” quite a few times and the overall experience itself was certainly full of joy, but there were also moments of orientation when it was somewhat difficult.  Orientation made the whole moving-to-Cambodia-thing a little more of a reality.  Sure, that has its good realities but it also has the harsher ones likes leaving everyone that I love (except for my site partner, of course) and moving to the other side of the world where I don’t speak the language and will probably be sweaty and tired for a year straight.  But the beauty of this is that no matter how many times we talked about how difficult next year would be, how hard it would be to leave our loved ones, all of the not-so-nice statistics about our countries and diseases that we could get there, and how what we were doing was maybe, just maybe, a little crazy, we all still took our cross, signed the papers, and said “yes” to God’s call to serve him in this way.

It’s a little cruel to have all of us laugh, cry, pray, play, learn, and train together for three weeks only for us to be split up and sent out two by two to four different continents but I cannot begin to describe how grateful I am for the three weeks that I spent with my SLM family.  I’ve learned so much from each of them and know that we will be praying for each other and rooting each other on from our respective missions.

I absolutely love these people. Thanks for a great three weeks!

I absolutely love these people. Thanks for a great three weeks!

Now that training is done, I am very eager to get started on the rest of my missionary adventure.  I should be leaving end of September/early October!

Thanks to everyone who let me steal their pictures!