A life-changing connection

By Crystal Catalan

“I was all set – and set for the rest of my life!,” I told myself when I landed a promising job in corporate America after graduating from the University of San Diego. I also made a promise to spend two weeks of my summer vacation working in orphanages in the Philippines. It was a commitment that came from being active in campus ministry and one that filled me with energy and helped grow my relationship with God. Yet what touched me the most was my first visit to the Philippines in 2005. I had no idea that this experience would change my life.

I fulfilled my promise to serve in the Philippines during my summer vacations, working in orphanages with abandoned and abused children. It was also there that I felt my heart connect with a group of people I never would have met: those marginalized in society—people in abject poverty. Each time I found myself on a plane returning home to California, I felt a deep sadness for leaving behind the people and country I had fallen in love with.

It wasn’t until my “vacation” trip in April 2009 that my heart began to grow heavy with desire to permanently serve in the Philippines. Reminded by my mother to remain faithful and move forward in prayer, it was the chance online encounter that led me to the Cabrini Mission Corps. Little did I know that Cabrini Mission Corps was the ideal program that I had envisioned belonging to.

Just one month later, in May 2009, I resigned from my paying position in Los Angeles, and began serving as a missioner working as a teacher and campus minister at Mother Cabrini High School in New York, NY. In this ministry I am blessed with the opportunity to listen to students’ concerns, share in their joys, and just be with them. It is this kinship, and these relationships that allow me to treasure and value each day. Sure it is difficult; I had no teaching experience prior to this, but I find that it is all about connection, relevance, and relationship. 

Every day I consider it a blessing to have one-on-one conversations with these students, and offer the ministry of presence.

What do I find myself called to do each day? Am I attracted to a special ministry? What obstacles would I have to conquer to follow this calling? What would I have to give up? Where do I find peace and joy?



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