Lois Heron with the Bishop’s Bulletin recently sat down with Ella (18) and Maya (16) Heintz, two sisters involved in building relationships with other teenagers. The sisters have partnered with Lumen Christi missionaries to establish a Bible study group in their parish, St. Mary in Dell Rapids. In this conversation, Lois explores the girls’ desire to share their faith and become the missionary disciples they are called to be.
Tell us about your faith journey and how it has spurred you on to grow in your understanding of the Lord’s love for you as you have matured.
Ella: My faith journey has been steady and gradual. I would say I have had consistent experiences throughout my life, like attending a Catholic school, Presentation camp, D-Camp, numerous retreats, and my own confirmation process have all been a part of my journey. Most recently, St. Mary had a NET team at our parish for several weeks this past winter, and that had a profound impact on me. Their fire and passion for Christ was contagious.
Maya: My faith journey has been a true blessing. As a child, I learned about my faith from my family and teachers. As I got older, I began to make my faith my own and develop a trusting and strong relationship with Jesus. From receiving the sacraments to religious camps and classes, I have been spiritually impacted. I am so grateful for my faith journey.
How has the faith, lived out in your family life, parish life and social circles, affected your own walk with the Lord?
Ella: The Catholic faith has always been an important part of my family. My parents really made faith a daily and consistent part of our lives. I always remember nightly devotions with our whole family. That time together every night helped center me and put every day in perspective.
Maya: The faith has always been the center of my life, and I owe that to my family, parish and school. I am so fortunate to have a Catholic environment to be in where my friends and family help bring me closer to God each day.
When did you come to the place where your family’s practice of the faith took on more meaning in your life?
Ella: After my confirmation and as I got older, I think I realized the gift that faith was for me in my life. At that point, I also realized it was a bit more up to me and a personal choice to continue to grow in my faith.
Maya: I went to a discipleship camp and encountered Jesus like I never had before. Ever since then, I have learned to be more personal with my relationship with God and take on the responsibility to maintain a strong faith.
Why is faith in the Lord important to you?
Ella: Because it gives me joy and guidance. My faith helps me to feel a purpose, that I am here for a greater reason than myself.
Maya: Faith in the Lord is important to me because it is all that matters in the end. Being faithful to the one who created me, loves me infinitely, and is with me always will always be my first priority.
As you consider the sacraments of our Catholic faith, which have helped you the most in your faith journey?
Ella: I would definitely say the sacrament of reconciliation has helped me the most in my faith journey. It reminds me of God’s infinite mercy and his love for me. To come before a priest with all my sins gives me a sense of renewal and frees me from guilt in an indescribable way. I feel like confession has helped grow my relationship with Christ the most. There was a penance our priest offered to me that has stayed with me in my daily walk with the Lord. Father asked me to pray, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me” three times. It continues to make a difference in how I live my life.
Maya: The sacraments that have helped me the most would have to be reconciliation and Communion. During reconciliation, I can really connect to Jesus on a very honest level. I can show God my worst and still know he loves me no differently, and that he died for me even at my worst. I still pray a penance that a priest asked me to pray after one confession: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Praying in that way opens me up to transformation in my life. When receiving the Eucharist, I get to experience Jesus in a very raw and eye-opening way. Though God is always with us, I feel his presence the strongest when I receive him in the Eucharist.
What are some of the challenges for you in living as a faithful follower of Jesus?
Ella: I think the biggest challenge for me living as a faithful follower of Jesus is making him the main priority of my life. I sometimes feel like I get so busy with other things that I don’t take the time I should to spend in prayer and in his presence during the day.
Maya: Some challenges that can arise in my faith life are not trusting in God’s plan for me when I reach obstacles. Sometimes it is hard to understand God’s plan for you when you feel like God is giving you obstacles that are too hard to handle. When I am struggling with something and I am tempted to do something wrong, I think of 1 Corinthians 10:13: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
When have you felt closest to the Lord?
Ella: I feel closest to God after worshiping at Mass. Singing songs of praise makes me feel united with the Church in an effort to honor our Creator. Along with this I am able to receive the Eucharist, which is the ultimate connection we can have on earth with our heavenly Father.
Maya: I feel the closest to God at adoration. Whenever I have a true connection to the Heavenly Host at adoration, I can feel the Holy Spirit within me. That feeling is the best feeling in the world, and it makes me long for an eternity with God.
What are some significant things that have happened in your life when you have felt the Lord’s presence?
Ella: I would definitely say that I feel the Lord‘s presence when at youth church camps. I believe they are so important for developing faith in young teens and children. They bring you together with a community that all has a common desire to worship the Lord, and it gives you a sense of the body of Christ on earth. I attended a Presentation Sister’s camp once. Even though I was reluctant to go, once there I opened up in the graces that were offered at the camp. I especially liked the encouragement I received in my own faith in the Lord as the counselors assisted me in becoming more open to dialogue about the challenges of living the faith.
Maya: I agree with Ella. The significant moments in my life where I have felt the Lord’s presence are when I’ve been prayed over by other campers and the counselors. In those moments, I just feel a very real connection. It reminds me that he is with me in my moments of struggle, as well as my moments of joy. Knowing that he has been with me through everything makes me feel closer to him than anybody else.
What are you enjoying as you participate in the Lumen Christi study group?
Ella: I think what piqued my interest in Lumen Christi was the fact that these are young adults who are so excited about their faith and want to evangelize to others around the Midwest. It is so inspiring to see the sacrifice and love they show giving up their summers to come and help others grow in their faith. I think that really inspired me the most.
I’m enjoying being the group leader; we are using the Formed.org series, “The Search.” It’s therapeutic to listen to the videos about the search for meaning everyone experiences. The series connects what we know about the Catholic faith with the big questions that we think about: Who am I? Why was I created? What’s the purpose of living my Catholic faith? How can I do that when the culture doesn’t accept the Creator’s answers? Our discussions help a lot. I’m looking forward to becoming a part of a group like Lumen Christi when I go to Augustana in the fall.
Maya: Seeing other people who are just as interested and passionate about Jesus is very inspiring. I am looking forward to growing closer to them, and through them, growing closer to God.
I agree with Ella, the series is showing us how to live our faith authentically. Our group discussions are great. I’m looking forward to leading the group once Ella leaves for university. I also hope to assist with the confirmation classes at our parish as well.