I found my calling when I was backpacking and teaching through China, Cambodia and Thailand.
I was eating breakfast in a small charity restaurant in Siem Reap in Cambodia, when a homeless man approached me. His clothes were torn; he had scars all over his body and he his arms had been amputated.
But what moved me most were his eyes. He was a man in need of so many things, none of which I could give him.I had only carried enough money to get myself breakfast, and I felt helpless.
I knew that day that Jesus had shown me my calling through this man’s eyes; to eradicate poverty and conflict, to uphold human rights and to fight for human dignity.
This experience has led me to study a Bachelor’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies and International Relations.
This area, like many others, often discredits religion and faith and focuses only on facts and reason. Often I think the time I spend studying is selfish, and time away from praying or working for God’s ministry in Ignite Youth. I frequently questioned ‘how do I be Christ’s love, whilst studying a degree that is the complete opposite of my faith?’
Today’s modern society often portrays faith as a moral compass for ethics, to satisfy one’s emotional requirements. My degree and my faith seemed like two conflicting forces within my life. Often times I felt that the faith I wanted to live out and the classes I was learning, were the opposite. I was also told that I was not ‘fulfilling my potential’ by working for the Church.
This led me to ask ‘how can I be a Catholic and study international politics?’ I felt discouraged, like I had lost sight of God’s calling and had to give up my faith for my degree.
It wasn’t until I met role models who studied my degree, and now work for the Church helping to alleviate poverty and stand up for human rights, that I realised no matter what field I am in, my calling is to bring Christ’s love to the world. In both working for God’s kingdom and following his calling to study international politics, I am fulfilling God’s call in my life.
My degree has not made me question my faith. Instead of making me see the pessimistic flaws of the world, university has made me appreciate my faith, and the power Christ’s love has in the world.
“The place where God calls you is where your deep desire and the world’s deepest hunger meet” (Frederick Buechner).
God places us in these areas for a reason. And just like life, we may or may not know the reason; we can only discern and follow God. There is a great hunger in both areas of my life; a great hunger for young people to have a relationship with God and work for youth ministry, and there is also a great hunger for peace and eradication of poverty in the world.
This degree isn’t opposing my faith, but helping me see the world for what is and what it could be.
I don’t know where God will lead me – maybe to give my life for the Church and work in bringing young people to Christ, or maybe further down the track, working for peace in the world and to stop injustice. Only God knows. Either way, I will be Christ’s love in whatever I do.
Katelyn Swinsburg works as a youth leader, appeals and administration assistant at Ignite Youth and is also currently studying a Bachelor’s Degree with an extended major in Peace and Conflict Studies and International Relations at the University of Queensland. She loves dancing, choreographing and playing worship music in her local parishes. She is also engaged to Matthew Ross to be married in December this year.
The views expressed in the Catholic Collective blog do not necessarily represent the views of the Youth Evangelisation Office or the Archdiocese of Brisbane