Meet Our Campus Missionary
Meet Our Campus Missionary: An interview with Carly McShane, the Saint Benedict Institute's new Campus Missionary and Assistant Program Coordinator.
Where are you from and where did you go to college?
I was born and raised in Normal, Illinois. I went to school at Hope where I graduated with a degree in Church History and Theology as well as a minor in dance.
I understand that you are a recent convert to Catholicism. Why did you become a Catholic?
I didn’t grow up in the Church but both of my parents were raised in Catholic families. In 8th grade I started attending a nondenominational church with some friends. I went there all through high school and I encountered Jesus and the Scriptures for the first time. In college I was able to read some accounts of the early martyrs. I remember reading the letters of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a martyr who was mauled by lions in the 2nd century. In one of his letters he writes, “I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.” I was awestruck when I read that and I was roused by St. Ignatius’s willingness to die for the truth, to die for Christ. The martyrs' identification with Christ’s sacrifice helped me to understand the nature of the Eucharist more deeply.
Did the Eucharist play an important role in your conversion?
Certainly! I started attending Mass and I saw something happening before me. There is no other way to explain it but I began to understand that the Lord was present in the Catholic Church in a special way. It stirred in me the desire to love God with the same love of the martyrs, giving myself to Him to the point of death and in that death receiving life. I began to know the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist in which Christ’s sacrifice is re-presented to us. We receive the divine life of Jesus Christ as a gift from God and at the same time we also offer ourselves to God in gratitude and thanksgiving. Here, in the Mass, I was being called to give myself to God as He wanted to give Himself to me.
When did you officially enter into the Catholic Church?
As I continued to read and pray about these things I could no longer resist Christ’s call to come to Him and to His Church. During my final year of school I entered into the Right of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) at St. Francis de Sales parish and eventually came into full communion with the Catholic Church in February of 2017. It has been an emotional homecoming. I often find myself overwhelmed by the beauty and truth that I have experienced in the Catholic Church and I look forward to growing in faith and continuing to experience the riches of the Tradition more deeply.
What do you think are the main reasons that so many young people are not engaging with the Church today?
There are so many possible answers to pick from! I think one main reason is a lack of vulnerability. Young people are often disconnected from one another and from God. We don’t know how to develop deep and enduring friendships because we are often afraid to open up with those closest to us or even with ourselves. There is an inability to see the reality of who we are. When we do see that reality we are often afraid to share it for fear of rejection or what others might think of us. Another reason is the culture of immediate gratification. We want what we what when we want it, but the spiritual life doesn’t work like that. In reality, it is often full of challenges and suffering. Many young people don’t know how to suffer or are unwilling to do so.
What are some effective strategies that you are aware of to evangelize our youth?
Relationships. This is how Christ formed the Church. He chose twelve men to share his life with and he didn’t abandon those men when they didn’t understand Him, asked stupid questions, or even betrayed Him. Sharing life with one another is what Christ asked us to do because it is what He does with us.
Why were you interested in becoming a full-time member of the Saint Benedict Institute staff?
The Saint Benedict Institute has had a great impact on my life. The Lord brought me into His Body, the Church through these people. I have seen the value of this work in my own life and I know I have been called to share that with more students at Hope. In the little time I have spent working with the Institute I have come to love campus ministry. Over the last year I have been doing student outreach on a voluntary basis and I wanted to continue investing in those relationships.
Your job expands in the Fall to include serving as a campus missionary. What does being a campus missionary mean, and what are the first things you want to tackle in this new role?
My official job description says that my role is to cultivate friendships with students, build them up in Christ, and help them discover how to serve God in the world. Ultimately, I think that means being a joyful Catholic presence on campus. I want to be someone students can talk to, someone they can come to with questions or challenges. Some of my immediate goals are to foster a greater devotion to Our Lady in our campus community and to find ways to connect older students with underclassmen.