Loving family, youth outreach paved missionary’s path to Bolivia

| October 15, 2015 | 0 Comments
Katie Stolz

Katie Stolz

A month after being commissioned as a Salesian Lay Missioner in August, Katie Stolz, 23, left her job as a lab technologist to spend a year at an orphanage in Bolivia.

Stolz, a parishioner of St. Peter in Forest Lake, shared with The Catholic Spirit her motivations for joining a lay mission founded by St. John Bosco, the work she’ll do, and how she thinks her Catholic faith will guide her.

Q. What inspired you to become a missionary, particularly with the Salesians?

A. I felt called to serve and give myself wholeheartedly to others. The fact that there are children that might feel unloved or unwanted makes me sad; I had a beautiful childhood, am blessed with a wonderful family and want others to experience that also. The Salesians are a joyful order dedicated to serving youth, so I knew they would be a perfect fit.

Q. In what other ways are you active in your faith?

A. I helped out with Teens Encounter Christ retreats in college and was also involved in Extreme Faith Camp and Totus Tuus during the 2014 summer. Totus Tuus helped lead me to the Salesian Lay Missioner program. Even after one week in a parish, I was sorry to leave the kids and parish families. I also felt God was able to work through myself and my Totus Tuus teammates to reach the kids, even though we only knew them for a week. So, I can only imagine what it will like to be a missionary for a year.

Q. What will you do in Bolivia?

A. I will be a caretaker to the 45 girls in Hogar Maria Auxiliadora, [a home in Itocta to 45 orphaned, abandoned, or abused girls ages 5-18]. A typical day will consist of waking them up in the morning, getting them ready for school, leading them in prayer and doing chores. We then have a nice two-hour lunch with the [Daughters of the Divine Savior] sisters (they take meals very seriously!) and tutor the girls when they return from school. There is both a computer lab and library that my site partner, Erin [Brennan], and I will be in charge of. In addition, we will take the girls to their medical appointments. Most important, we will let them know they are loved by God and ourselves. What we are doing will not be terribly important, but how we do it will be the most important. That was one thing I struggled with before accepting [to become a missioner]; I questioned what I would be doing. What would the visible results be? It did not seem like I would be doing anything that would make a difference, like teaching. Then I reflected on my own life and how the small, everyday actions of my parents growing up made me feel loved. Then I thought yes, I can do that, too.

Q. Please describe the environment in which you’ll live and work.

A. Cochabamba is known as the “City of Eternal Spring,” which I was thrilled to discover. Erin and I will be living in a building right next to the orphanage and the convent where the Daughters of the Divine Savior stay. The sisters teach at the school where the girls attend, along with other local children. We are outside the main city area of Cochabamba, more in the suburbs. As Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, I imagine I will see a type of poverty I have never been exposed to. Life will be much simpler compared to the United States. Every day I will be surrounded with joyous children and sisters, and I am sure I will love it. The Bolivian people also have a rich faith and culture.

Q. How does your Catholic faith help prepare you for the work you’ll do in Bolivia?

A. The only way I will be able to complete my missionary work will be through prayer and reliance on the sacraments, especially Jesus in the Eucharist. Even when I experience sufferings and setbacks, I know I can rely on Jesus and offer up the trials and joys to him.

Q. How long will you be there?

A. The program is flexible as to your arrival and departure, but it will be around one year. I can also renew up to three years at this site, or asked to be transferred to another site.

Q. What sacrifices did you have to make in order to be a missioner?

A. I struggled with leaving my job and knowing I would not be paying off any of my student loans for a year. But really, I do believe God has plenty of money. I am also realizing a year is long time (at least it appears so right now) and I am going to miss family and friends. I will have much less time alone with a new family of 55 people!

Q. What advice do you have for others interested in becoming a missioner?

A. God calls all of us to be missioners, so one does not need to go to another country to live out this call. Spending time in silence and prayer is vital. In the words of St. John Paul II, “Do not be afraid.” If you feel God is calling you to be a missionary outside of your town and family, do not let your fears hold you back.

Q. Are you doing this by yourself?

A. Luckily, no! All Salesian Lay Missioners are sent out with at least one other SLM, and I am fortunate enough to be paired with a wonderful site partner, Erin. We will also work closely with the sisters who run the orphanage.

Q. What are your plans when you return to the U.S.?

A. Good question! I have no idea where God will lead me or how he’ll change me, so I have made no plans for my return. I shall probably return to the nest for a brief stay; thanks Mom and Dad!

Q. Anything else you’d like to share?

A. Prayers are very welcome for everyone here at the Hogar; the sisters, the children and the volunteers.

Tags: , ,

Category: Local News