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Turn to Jesus (Article)

It Seemed Clear that I Should Give a Year, but Where Was the Proof?
Have you ever had the crazy dream to one day be a missionary volunteer? One girl tells us how her dream came true.

Celina Flanagan - colaboradora
My name is Celina Flanagan, I´m of Filipino and Irish descent, but I grew up in Southern California, the oldest of seven kids: five boys and two girls. I am currently giving a second year as a co-worker. But let me start from the beginning...

Have you ever had the crazy dream to one day be a missionary volunteer? When I arrived to high school I set my mind on giving a year as a missionary after I graduated. But time progressed and as I entered tenth and eleventh grade I began to see life more realistically, losing interest in my
missionary dream.

While I was in eighth grade, I became close friends with a family that has five daughters and three sons, and through them I met the apostolic movement Regnum Christi. Regnum Christi-which means "Kingdom of Christ" in Latin- is a movement of apostolate composed of lay men and women, either single or married; diocesan priests; lay consecrated members and the religious priestly branch of the Legionaries of Christ. It seeks to establish Christ´s Kingdom in the hearts of every person, giving them means to live out their baptismal commitments to holiness and apostolate. Surprising to me at the time, two young women from this family decided to give their lives totally to Christ in Regnum Christi´s consecrated branch.

After graduating from high school early, I began college. In 2000, the friend who had been consecrated called to invite me to the consecrated formation center in Rhode Island for their annual Holy Week Retreat. One thing I´ve learned is money is never an obstacle to God; nor is it ever a valid excuse to decline His invitation! She promised to help find a sponsor for my plane ticket, but also asked if I could talk to my parish priest to see if he would help. Of course I agreed, but confided to her my doubts about his willingness to help.

Finally, two weeks prior to the retreat, I gathered the courage to call my parish priest for money. He immediately asked me how much my ticket would cost and posted the check. God was at work in my soul...

During the retreat, I encountered some volunteers who were in the thick of their co-worker year. I was impressed. I still can´t believe that there are so many young people like me, living and fighting for their faith, working for the Church, and giving and experiencing genuine charity. My heart was still a rock, however, toward the idea of me giving a year to the church. Why? It seemed like a lot to give up: family, college, boyfriend, was pretty good back in sunny California.

I lived one of the best Easters of my life that year. Spiritual direction was being offered at the retreat. My impression of spiritual direction: some person tells you if you have a vocation or not. As a consequence, I was avoiding it at all costs. To my complete shock, on Holy Thursday, I had spiritual direction that afternoon. I went. This spiritual direction
cracked my expectations, and my heart, warming it to the idea of giving a year, so I resolved to pray about the volunteer program and to take home an application.

I was incorporated into Regnum Christi on Easter Sunday. Like I said before, it was the best Easter of my life.

On the plane ride home I asked God to be very clear with me regarding what he wanted me to do because I tend to rationalize and I had a lot of things that could keep me from giving a year. I had a job as a nanny and the co-worker program started in a few months, which meant that my employer would have to start looking for my replacement soon. I also had a car payment and other debts that needed to be taken care of. I told God that he had to take care of everything if he wanted me to give a year.

The day after I got home I went straight to work. My employer asked to speak to me. She proceeded to tell me that their old nanny, whom I had replaced because she was having family difficulties, desired to return to work because she was no longer having problems. She asked if I would mind giving up my position for this woman. Of course, I freaked out because, yeah, I asked God to be blunt, but this was crazy! Taking away my job the day after I get home...that deserves a little forewarning don´t you think?

So, I told her the story about how I was considering becoming a co-worker, and yes she could give my position to the other nanny. She was shocked as well, because it was a hard sacrifice for her to ask of me, but it all seemed to fall into place.

I know that it seemed clear-cut that I should give a year but I, in my rational mind, didn´t take that as the final sign from God to give a year because I was still trying to talk myself out of it. I somehow managed to convince myself that God could just be calling me to get a new job, so I decided to pray a novena. What are moms for? That night I called my mom and told her everything that had happened, and that I was going to do a novena to confirm what I should do. And at that moment my mom said something very profound that still helps me to this day. "Sometimes, Celina," she said, "you need to tell God yes until He tells you no." Then she added with lots of enthusiasm, " So are you gonna go?" Of course, after that comment, I couldn´t say no. If it wasn´t Gods will He would let me know. It was final; I was going to be a co-worker. During the following few months I would prepare and in June, I would board a plane for Rhode Island to attend the Co-Worker Program.

So it went, and my year flew by. My first year was given in the formation center in Greenville, Rhode Island. I was the assistant to the administrator of the Vocational Office.

God called me to give my second year in a completely different way than the first. I hadn´t really prayed about a second year because I was convinced that God wanted me to go home and go back to school so that I could work for the Regnum Christi movement. Whenever anyone would suggest for me to give a second year I would automatically say that God wasn´t calling me to give a second year. Although, I was very concerned about getting new co-workers because the Church needs them, I would never count myself among that number because I had already done my part.

It was during Holy Week of 2001, 10 months into my co-worker year that I brought up in spiritual direction the thought of giving a second year. I brought it up, not because I suddenly realized that God was calling me, but because many of the other co-workers were discerning whether to give a second year and I thought that it was weird that I didn´t have that same concern. So, my spiritual director told me to go into the chapel and right down two lists. On the first list she told me to write why it would be beneficial to give a second year, and on the other, why it would be beneficial to go home. Well needless to say, the list of why I should give a second year was so much longer than the other so I decided to take my moms advice a little early and say yes to God until He told me no. However, I was sure that he was going to tell me no before I left for home.

One of the big obstacles that really kept me from saying yes completely was the fact that my mom had just had twins and I figured that I would be able to help a lot when I got back home. After Holy Week I called my mom and discreetly asked her, "What would you say if I told you I wanted to give a second year?" She told me that if God was asking it of me that she couldn´t stand in the way. Then I asked her if she needed my help at home because of the babies. This was the deciding factor; if she said yes then I wasn´t going to give a second year. I didn´t even think of the possibility of her saying no because I was sure that she needed my help. Lo and behold she told me that she really didn´t need my help because she was getting along fine without me and it was only going to get easier as the twins got older.

Once again, God was showing me very clearly what he wanted me to do. So at the point of no longer being able to deny that it was Gods will, I decided to give a second year.

It seems so amazing to me now that I reflect on how clear God was with me. He really fought hard to help me to give a year. Finally I realize that He wasn´t asking me to give up anything, but instead He was inviting me to accept one of the greatest gifts of my life. God has given me so much more than I could have imagined during these years. He took my little offering of 730 days and re-paid me 100 fold for it.

Like I mentioned, my first year was given in the formation center in Greenville, Rhode Island. I am presently giving my second year in Dallas, Texas and I am working in the apostolate called Medical Missions. Medical Missions is an organization that brings groups of doctors to South America to set up free clinics for the poor.

I would like to share with you a reflection that I often have in my prayers: God has given me this opportunity because he is preparing me for something great. These years as a co-worker are the beginning of the rest of my life. They have helped prepare me to live united to Christ in a world that is so far away from Him, and now that I understand a little more about His infinite love for me, I can do nothing but His will to show my love for Him.

Thank you and God Bless!!




Related articles
- RC Mission Corps
- What is God calling me to do?

Related links

Helping Hands Medical Missions
St Rafael Guizar y Valencia Missionary Center

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