Posted with permission from Ave Maria University Athletics at where this post can be found. Thanks to Coach Rosser.


When you have a life changing experience I wish there was a way that you could replicate that same feeling for everyone else so that they too could know exactly what you had felt. You can try your best to share every detail in the hopes that it will allow them to receive the same reaction you did, but in reality they will only get a small glimpse into what you are actually trying to convey. The things that you experienced that brought light to your eyes may not be the same things that light up the eyes of others. This is how I feel about my trip to the Student Leadership Summit (SLS) in Chicago, Illinois.
First, let me give you the run down on what this conference is all about. SLS is a FOCUS, Fellowship of Catholic University Students, run conference that provides you the opportunity to accept Christ’s invitation to join Him on His mission of discipleship. Well that sounds great and all, but what does that really mean? I’m glad you asked. This conference helps give you the tools and guidance necessary to truly transform yourself by going deeper in Christ’s life and love so that you can than inspire and lead others to Him. The conference offers daily Mass, training sessions, talks by well-known speakers, adoration, confession, concerts, and informational booths about events, vocations, and schools/organizations to gain more insight into the possible opportunities for your future. The best part about it is that you get to be there with thousands of other college aged students who are all striving for the same thing. Heaven.
Wow. Doesn’t that sound incredible? You can imagine that it was hard to leave and since I’ve returned back to campus after such a pivotal week in my life, I’ve struggled to truly portray what I witnessed without just saying, “It was awesome”, “Life changing”, or “My break was good”. Just good? No. It was so much more than that. Instead of giving someone in passing a quick response about my experience from now on I’ll say, “Let’s grab lunch together”, or “Let’s talk about it when we have more time” because I want them to see my eyes. I want to bring light to their eyes in the same way that Christ brought light to mine.
Emily Dalton (left) and with Father Mike Schmitz
Well, I might as well start with where it all began. How did I get there? I was forced. Allow me to elaborate. Do you ever look at events, clubs, or things and say I could see myself wanting to do that, but never actually following through with them? That for me was my relationship with SLS. I would pass by their table walking into the cafeteria everyday knowing that this was something I could see myself doing, but never making any effort to get more information about it. I only made excuses. Some of them sounded like this: “I don’t want to give up a week of my break”, “Chicago is too cold”, “and I don’t know anyone else who’s going”, etc. That all changed when my soccer coach sat me down and gave me the extra push that I needed to officially sign up by saying, “Hannah, you are going to the conference. No excuses.” And after that I was on my way to The Windy City with no idea that just a few short days later I would be leaving a completely different person than when I first arrived.
Now when I was asked to write about my trip I had no idea where to start. I had so many things I wanted to say, but I was only given a 500 word limit. I’m at 611. I could approach this from any angle, but I’m going to share this one moment that struck straight to my heart and to me is the reason I love being Catholic.
This moment happened in Eucharistic Adoration. Adoration is such a blessing because we GET to have the opportunity to be present before our Lord. Imagine a giant convention center room filled with more than 8,000 college students, priests, consecrated, and lay people hitting their knees on this hard concrete floor to worship our God. Not only is there power in numbers, but there is just something so moving and so powerful to be surrounded by so many people with their hands raised to meet His and tears rolling down the sides of their cheeks. In that moment we all brought our messy lives to Him and He met us right where we were all at and said, “I’ll take it from here”. But wait it gets better. It wasn’t just Adoration where he resides in the monstrance on the altar. No, the priest actually processed up and down each aisle with the monstrance so that everyone had the opportunity to get closer to Him!

Emily and Hannah with Cotters
I’ll never forget looking over to my right to see my roommate, who’s had not one, not two, but three ACL tears, kneeling on that unforgiving concrete. She has a hard enough time kneeling in Church using the risers and they have cushions! And when I looked in front of me I saw Luke, a student from Ave who had been using a wheelchair to get around due to a leg injury, who was also fully kneeling in despite of his pain. They didn’t have to kneel. No one said you had to kneel and even if they did both of them had valid reasons as to why they couldn’t. What a beautiful witness to see these two people so consumed in Christ’s love that they overcame and offered their suffering up to Him. Neither of them will ever know how much their act of kneeling moved my heart. And to other’s looking at them they may have never known their stories and how hard this “simple” act of kneeling was for them. And that’s the beauty of it. To each them it was how they were showing their love to Christ, but through them Christ was showing His love to me.
He used these two people as examples to set my own heart of fire with His love. When he passed by my aisle in the monstrance I have never in my life felt what I had felt in that moment. It was a truly extraordinary and unforgettable feeling and glimpse into the love that He has and will always have for me and into His heart. I gave Him everything. All that I am. All that I have. And never have I been so free.
So yeah I can say my experience was life changing because my life will never be the same, but come talk to me or anyone else who went to this conference so that Christ, through us, can help change your life too.


Emily and Hannah with Dr. Sri



by Hannah Lawrence (a Junior Center Back at Ave Maria University), about her experience at the Student Leadership Summit (SLS), a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) event in Chicago, Illinois held January 2nd through January 6th.

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