Compelled to serve

By Maria Sermersheim

Last week I participated in Mission Evansville, a wonderful local service retreat hosted by our diocese. It prompted me to consider what actually causes us to act. We often see needs in the community, but we don’t respond — usually because of that fatal preference for convenience. The beast of convenience dictates far too much of our lives and stamps down our will to do good.

Unfortunately, I think it is no stretch to assume that we have all denied many opportunities to serve with the weak excuse that it was inconvenient. So what is it that finally shoves us out of our complacency and compels us to act? As Diocese of Evansville Seminarian Nicholas Sellers said in his talk Wednesday night, “the difference is love . . . love transforms the situation.” He applied this to how our service is glorious, as the retreat’s theme was “Mission Glory”; but I believe it applies just as well to what motivates our service.

We can only serve well and let God’s love shine through us if we first place ourselves in his love and strengthen our relationships with him.

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, patroness of Mission Evansville, said, “When you know how much God is in love with you, then you can only live your life radiating that love.” Indeed, the love of God is blessedly contagious, and he works through our relationships with others to spread it. Deacon Tom Goebel is an excellent example of this contagion. He brought two men to speak to the group about how their conversions to Catholicism help them through their difficult journeys of sobriety. He met the twins through his prison ministry, and they decided that they wanted to be baptized together after their release and reform their lives. One of the men explained that it was Deacon Tom’s presence and love that made the difference and made them want to listen, as he said, “You can’t teach [about] the Lord without a hug.” Deacon Tom agreed that his ministry is impossible without the words, “I care.” Deacon Tom lives the Gospel in his incredible ministry through the power of God’s love.

Brittney Hollingsworth led the Gospel reflection one morning and recognized that the Gospels make us uncomfortable sometimes because they reveal the areas where we can improve, always calling us higher, challenging us to better model ourselves after Christ. Bradley Schaefer, the father of our recently-passed friend Joshua Schaefer, spoke to us Friday night about how Joshua did listen to the Gospels and modeled his life after Christ’s. Many of us knew Joshua personally because he was very involved in the diocese and had attended Mission Evansville in the past. It was truly evident in his life that he loved God, and that love motivated his incredible witness to service and friendship.

St. Mother Teresa allowed the love of God to shape her life and response to those in need around her. Deacon Tom allows the love of God to permeate his being and seep out in his embraces. Joshua allowed the love of God to direct his life and thus enrich the lives of everyone he met. So Mission Evansville left me with a couple of questions.

Do I allow God’s love to affect me? Do I allow it to compel me to act?