My first year at Birmingham-Southern College was a totally fresh start. I moved from Indiana to Alabama, knowing no one and having no idea what to expect, but God took this opportunity to show me He is an intimate and deeply personal God. My time in Birmingham, especially at St. Stephen’s, has shown me that there is not a part of my life that God has not carefully, and lovingly, organized and filled with grace to the point of overflowing.
I won’t lie, most of my freshman year was very difficult. I came from a very tight-knit community of friends in high school and it did not prove easy to adjust to having almost no one. I never gave up hope though, because I knew that God would provide me with all that I needed. And He did! As He always does! Slowly but surely, I became more involved with the new Southern Catholic group on my campus, the community at St. Stephen’s, the Alabama Awakening Retreat, and further down the line, I was blessed to spend more time with the Poor of Jesus Christ, and the Sister Servants of St. Francis. Time and time again, I was hit with deluges of people who loved me. God really said, “See? I will never leave you lonely for long.”
As I was wrapping up my sophomore year, I expected that my summer would be spent doing research at my school, but, like the rest of us, the pandemic uprooted all my plans. Fr. Altonji had several times mentioned to me that I might like being a Totus Tuus missionary, but I had always thought, “Oh maybe next year,” or “I can’t because I have to use my summer for my education.” Excuses, excuses!
I decided on a whim to apply. Birmingham missionary spots filled up quickly, so my application was sent to the international office where it was picked up by the director of youth ministry of the diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, John DeLaporte!!! Very soon, I was surrounded by 11 strangers who would soon become some of the dearest people in my life. As a Totus Tuus missionary, it was literally my job to love my 1st-6th grade students in the day program and my teens in the night program. Whether I wanted to or not, every day was spent actively loving others with an intensity that I never had before. A single act of charity has a power that reaches infinitely in all directions. Here, I was “forced” to live charitably 25/8. Even I could see how my service was not only affecting the kids before me, but also my fellow missionaries and myself. As love is not a one way street, there were parts of my life that I didn’t plan on bringing to Totus Tuus, and they were affected by this love which happened to be my work. Every day, my coworkers/friends and I were blessed to see the Lord working in little and big ways. God was revealing to us again and again that it was not random that all of us were placed there, together, in that summer - but that he called each of us by name.
I am excited to see the fruits of this past summer continue to blossom in the months and years to come. I know that the effects of the charity in which I was blessed to partake will be long-lasting and far-reaching. I am excited to see how I can take this experience back to the St. Stephen's and the greater Birmingham, Catholic community.
It was part of God’s beautiful and intimate plan that I come to Alabama, and it was part of His plan that I go to Missouri, AND it is a part of His plan that you are where you are right now. I thank Him for the opportunity to participate in this plan and I cannot wait to see where the He takes me next. Thank you to the community of St. Steve’s who played, and continues to play, a significant role of showing the love of God to me and all who go through their doors. It is an honor and a pleasure to count myself among your numbers.
Hannah Lafiosca, Birmingham-Southern College, Class of 2022
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