Director, Celtic Way
I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, raised in the Roman Catholic tradition. I identified with this tradition for the majority of my life. My Catholic grade school and Jesuit high school formed me, and my eyes were opened to social justice and direct service. Various experiences – from retreats to volunteer opportunities, service trips to protests – charted my life’s direction. I was, as the Jesuit Volunteer Corps affectionately puts it, ruined for life. The more my eyes were opened, the more responsibility I felt.
After attending Saint Louis University, I joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, where I worked in the Federated States of Micronesia, teaching and doing campus ministry. When I returned to the U.S., I continued in ministry, first at a retreat center and then in college campus ministry. It was during this time that I felt my own spiritual well begin to dry up. Focusing on others left me little energy and, quite frankly, little interest in my own spiritual development and wellbeing. I went back to school for a degree in nonprofit management and found a job that better suited me as Director of Operations at Peter & Paul Community Services, a homeless services agency. But still, I felt disconnected spiritually.
I eventually found a home in the Ecumenical Catholic Communion (ECC) community in St. Louis called Sts. Clare & Francis. This proved an important place for me. I met my wife Jessica there (she is pretty important to me). I also, for the first time, began to experience religion as a space to breathe and move rather than the confining box it had always felt like. At Sts. Clare & Francis, the inclusive language and celebration of diversity created a space that felt more free. I could ask questions, even challenge things if I felt like it. Most importantly, I felt permission to feel distant from God.
While my journey with religion has been a rocky one, my experiences of nature have been the opposite. I have always felt at home in nature. There are times when I go much longer than I should in reconnecting, but I always feel her welcome me home like a prodigal child. There is no judgment, no indignation. Though I haven’t always been aware of it, she is my God figure. More than anything else, she helps me to engage in life: to breathe, to process life’s happenings, to live in the moment, to reflect on life’s gifts. Nature offers the space and solitude I need to be my most authentic self – religion’s original intent, it seems.
I joined the board of Celtic Way in June 2017. The values of Celtic Way resonate with me and energize me in a way I haven’t felt in years. Inclusivity & equality, positive self-image, hospitality & service, and evolving faith represent the values I want to embody in my life and wish to share with others. I look forward to walking with Celtic Way and witnessing its effects on my life’s journey. I am excited to see how this journey unfolds: for me personally, for Celtic Way as an organization, and for the fortunate folk who will cross paths with this life-giving community.