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Turn to Jesus (Article)

14-year Challenge Veteran Retires
Thea Julien shares her experiences, insights and advice regarding the Catholic girls club

 Thea Julien talks to parents of her Challenge team
Thea Julien talks to parents of her Challenge team

Kingston, Michigan, November 17, 2010 -- Thea Julien has been involved with the Challenge program for over 14 years in the Thumb area of Michigan, and she will be retiring from active participation this year.  Recently she discussed her experiences with the Catholic girls club.  

Why did you get involved with Challenge? 

My daughter was 10 and a friend invited her to join.  From then on there was a need to help with the team.  My daughter is now married and has two children and another on the way. Even though she is no longer involved, the obvious graces of the movement from the Holy Spirit that I have seen working in her and the other girls I’ve have worked with have kept me in the Challenge organization. 

Why did you retire?

Life changes.  I am now a grandmother, and have aging parents.  My focus has had to move to these areas of need in my own and extended family.  My years working with Challenge are something I hold dear.  To me it is proof that the world is not such a bad place. I have
Thea Julien’s former Challenge team members fundraising for trip to 2011 World Youth Day
Thea Julien’s former Challenge team members fundraising for trip to 2011 World Youth Day
met so many wonderful giving, sharing and faith-filled people within the movement.

What types of things were you involved in with Challenge?

First I was a team mom, and then a club president, then a regional coordinator.  I also served as lay ECYD assistant, and then finally as a local area Challenge director.  In each of these roles I continued as a team mom for two teams. 

What was your favorite part about this volunteer work?

Working with the girls, watching them see that God does have a plan for each of them, and that He loves them dearly.

How do you think Challenge has affected the girls you work with?

I think that you would have to ask them, but one of the girls that I used to work with, a friend of my daughter’s, is now consecrated.  I watched these girls grow and develop into young adults, and some are now mothers.  The fruits are obvious to see.  Some are starting Famila programs at their new parishes, or a K4J program.  One young lady who apparently had little faith life at home has joined the
Thea Julien makes a salad with a Challenge team member during an event for Challenge parents
Thea Julien makes a salad with a Challenge team member during an event for Challenge parents
Church.   Her team mates were there when she became a Catholic at the Easter Vigil.  All these girls are still active members in apostolate within their parishes.

Despite your retiring, you are helping girls fundraise for World Youth Day, correct? 

The last team members I was working with -- a high school Challenge team -- are now moving into Regnum Christi.  I promised them that I would help them get to World Youth Day, which will be an experience that they will take with them for the rest of their lives.  My son has attended two WYD´s and is a living testimony. 

What is special about World Youth Day?

The experience of meeting and seeing so many young Catholics is a precious gift.  As Catholics we take it for granted that everyone understands... not all Christians have the blessing and grace of the universality of being Catholic.  They will be able to say that they saw the Holy Father, not just heard about him.  He is a real, living, vibrant leader of our Church, representing Christ for each of us.

How are you fundraising?

In many different ways.  We have a calendar, and monthly goal that we need to reach.  We also have parishes and many people supporting us.  The girls have held or participated in walk-a-thons, “Fiesta” dinners, craft shows car washes every weekend.  They are going to sell jewelry, Christmas wreaths, and other things that they have had planned.  No matter what the idea, if the idea comes from them, we do it.  This is their trip.  They are earning it, and they will never forget that they can do whatever they put their hand to.  They “work like it depends on them, and pray like it depends on God,” because it does.  This is their motto.  They also have adopted St. Therese of the Child Jesus as their special patron.

What advice would you give to those involved with Challenge today?

One thing that I have observed, when the parents “run the teams,” the teams dissolve. When the girls are given the freedom to create, use their own initiatives, and the parents simply guide them, their teams grow and blossom.  The girls do not want another adult telling them how to do things.  They need to feel they have some say in the direction of their teams and clubs.  And I mean in all areas -- planning, fundraising and activities.  It is something that I have seen so many times.  It gives them a sense they are capable of making changes in the world around them.





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