They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength. Is 40:31
Hope is what Jack Lawlis from Holy Spirit Parish in Stevens Point instills in Catholic youth on a daily basis as a missionary for SPIRITUS. SPIRITUS, operating out of Menasha, Wis., is a team of young adults in their 20s who donate nine months of their lives to serve the Church. Its goal is to inspire Catholic youth in Wisconsin through retreats and ministry while forming lifelong missionary disciples and leaders for the Church.
Jack is one of 12 missionaries from all over the country who joined SPIRITUS this year. These young adults are sent forth to serve the Church and to provide opportunities for Catholic youth to encounter Christ as a source of hope. It seems that in our world today, there are many reasons to lose hope, but SPIRITUS has the power to dramatically change lives: the lives of those whom these missionaries encounter, as well as the lives of the missionaries themselves. Eden and Katherine Foord, the founders and directors of SPIRITUS, welcome a new team of missionaries each year and know what an impact SPIRITUS has on the youth. Young adult Catholics are vital to inspiring the youth to follow Jesus and encounter God’s love.
Jack and the rest of the SPIRITUS missionaries change lives by being living examples of growing in holiness, spreading the Gospel of Jesus and proclaiming the message that our hope lies in Him. Their loving and passionate discipleship resonates with our youth and awakens their Catholic Faith while energizing them to do their part in renewing the life of the Church. The primary way SPIRITUS missionaries achieve this is through more than 150 retreats held each year for more than 5,000 Catholic youth. One retreat offered this year is called Finding Hope, focusing on providing opportunities for youth to encounter Christ as a source of hope, gain an understanding of how to live in hope and serve as a source of hope to others. Jack has seen the impact this missionary work is having firsthand. He remembers when he was eating lunch with a young lady on retreat and she remarked, “This is the closest I’ve ever felt to God in my entire life!” That memory has stayed with Jack throughout his mission year.
My time on SPIRITUS Team 12 has radically changed my life! … I wouldn’t trade it for the world!” – Jack
The youth, however, aren’t the only lives impacted by the SPIRITUS program. Team members are formed as lifelong missionary disciples through routines of prayer, spiritual direction, service and weekly formation courses. During their nine months of service, Jack and the other missionaries will spend 534 hours in prayer, 152 hours in leadership formation, 132 hours in ministry training and 421 hours in direct ministry to our Catholic youth. This is all done within an exciting, loving and joyful community. Through this process, SPIRITUS team members are transformed and receive as much as they give. Jack says, “My time on SPIRITUS Team 12 has radically changed my life! Through serving the Catholic youth of Wisconsin and growing in Faith with my teammates, I’ve come to know Jesus in such a profound way. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!”
Statistics also indicate the successful work SPIRITUS is doing in forming leaders for the Church. Since its inception in 2009, 21 alumni of SPIRITUS have gone on to pursue religious life or the priesthood and 59 are presently working in ministry.
While the SPIRITUS missionaries are doing all they can to promote the Catholic Church by inspiring the youth to rejoice in the beauty of their Faith and to place their hope in God, the work isn’t always easy. Spending almost a year away from family and friends, while working six days a week, can take its toll. For this reason, the missionaries need all the support they can get from the Catholic community.
Please pray for Jack, the other missionaries and all the youth they will inspire this year. SPIRITUS team members are not required to fundraise to pay for their living expenses while serving. Living the life of a missionary is extremely challenging, so your words of support will make a difference. You can send Jack a message at [email protected].
If you know of any young adults who want to inspire youth as a SPIRITUS missionary, please have them contact Rachel at [email protected].
Story by Catherine Wallace, retreat coordinator for SPIRITUS
Published in the September/October 2021 Issue of Catholic Life Magazine