It started a year ago as a simple text. Helen Yalbir had always found encouragement and consolation in the inspirational quotes and images she came across in her spiritual reading, and while she’d been collecting them for years to use in talks and meditations, she longed to share them on a more regular basis with her family, friends, and the people she serves, as a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi, in Washington, DC. “I love to share exciting, amazing things that I’ve learned, and it gives me so much joy to share that with others. I realized I had all these really pretty inspirational quotes and pictures,” says Helen, who began to send a daily inspirational text to a group of about twenty contacts. “I called it a little ‘spiritual cup of coffee’.”
The response to Helen’s “texting ministry” was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. “So many people would tell me how much it helped them, or how the Holy Spirit worked through the simple text messages,” says Helen, who desired to offer spiritual nourishment and accompaniment to people, even when it wasn’t possible to be with them in person. “I realized that there are so many people to love and serve, and so few of us to physically accompany people, but if we could just teach them how to encounter God, how to grow in trust, how to respond to the ways of God in their life by sharing the riches of our Catholic spiritual authors, then that was a gift that we could give people, even if we couldn’t be physically present to accompany them through difficult times.”
One of those people was Helen’s own sister. “I was accompanying my sister through a really difficult time, and it pained me not to be able to be physically with her.” Helen realized that her daily texting apostolate allowed her to be present to people, even when she wasn’t able to be with them in person. “So many people suffer in this world, and if we can’t be physically present to them, then at least the greatest gift we can give them is to help them grow in their trust in God, so that, no matter what they face, they have the tools to trust in God.”
While Helen’s texting ministry continued to grow, it suddenly became vitally important when the COVID-19 crisis hit. In Washington, DC, most of the in-person ministries that Helen and her fellow consecrated sisters and Legionary brothers were involved in were cancelled or moved on-line. This drastically affected their ministry and compelled them to find creative ways to engage more people on a virtual level. For example, when the annual Holy Week street missions where cancelled, they launched an online mission which included a daily e-mail that encouraged participants to live out Holy Week in an apostolic way each day. “This bore so much fruit and, in fact, allowed us to reach even more people,” says Helen.
And Helen’s texting apostolate has grown, too. Through WhatsApp, she now offers short, daily meditations focused on a particular theme, based on the needs she witnesses in her ministry, like learning to trust God, understanding the feminine genius, and living an abundant life with Christ. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Helen’s community observed how many people were feeling hopeless, and, with the desire to help restore hope to those they served, she launched her most recent series, called Mission Hope. “The objective was to give people a chance to recognize all the things that foster hope, and all the reasons for us to maintain hope, to live that hope in their ordinary life, and be a channel of hope for others,” says Helen. Each texting series draws its inspiration from a variety of spiritual authors, including Father Jacques Philippe, Deacon James Keating, and Pope Benedict XVI, as well as many of the saints.
In a time when in-person evangelization and accompaniment is complicated and often impossible, Helen’s texting apostolate is providing much-needed inspiration and encouragement to those her community serves. “There have been so many people who have shared feedback from these text messages,” says Helen. One recipient was experiencing serious depression, and through the inspiring quotes sent to her by text, God was able to open up pathways towards healing and restoration. Many people have shared with Helen how receiving her texts have made a real impact on them, whether it’s through the daily reflection questions that have helped them go deeper in their faith, the daily challenges that have produced tangible change in their lives, or the resources that have proved valuable in their spiritual journey. “It was incredible how so many women would share how a quote they received on a particular day was exactly what they needed to hear in that moment,” says Helen. “I am just so blown away by how a simple quote can really rock someone’s world, how God can use a simple phrase to penetrate a person’s soul and infuse it with his grace.”
When Helen began sharing simple texts of inspiration and insight with a small group of friends, she never could have dreamed the impact this simple ministry would have over the year, and how many people it would begin to reach. “I am happy that these text messages are reaching people,” says Helen. “I really never imagined it would go beyond my first little group of twenty people.”
And the reach of Helen’s texting apostolate is growing; many people who receive her text messages then go on to share them within their own circles. “I encourage people to take this ministry on themselves and start sending these daily texts to their own contacts,” says Helen. “Many of the people that were receiving our daily text messages were also forwarding it each day to their own groups of friends and contacts. This added a very cool missionary spirit to the text challenges.”
Creating a texting apostolate, and watching it flourish in the midst of a pandemic, has only confirmed to Helen that no situation is ever hopeless, and for God, nothing is impossible. “I am even more convinced that God is not bound by the circumstances we see in this world,” says Helen. “God is not stopped by COVID. Even technology can be a means for God’s grace to reach souls.”
Helen’s current texting series, called Interior Peace Journey, offers daily meditations on finding true peace, and runs until September 30th, but she has no plans to stop now; she’s busy keeping her heart open to the Holy Spirit’s inspirations for possible themes for future text series. One thing she’s sure of, though, is that God can speak – and bring about real spiritual transformation – through something as simple as a text message. “I am very humbled by how much this has helped people, and how the Holy Spirit continues to allow this to be a channel of his grace,” says Helen. “You can’t understand the power of a simple text message to change someone’s life.”
Helen will be rerunning the Interior Peace Journey series in October. To receive a short daily meditation on finding interior peace, and to stay posted on upcoming text series, join her chat on WhatsApp.