July Meeting Summary: SMYPP Peer Panel
For our July meeting, instead of hearing from one guest speaker, we had the pleasure of listening to 3 of our SMYPP peers: Ky Bertoli, Anna Muto, and Thomas Bounds. Taking turns, each member of the panel gave a brief talk about how their faith has affected and guided their lives. Though Ky, Anna, and Tom have different stories, each one is a prime example of discerning God’s plan for us through faith, prayer, and of course, trial & error.
Ky’s Story: Taking A Chance
“I’ve had a lot of discernment in my life,” said Ky Bertoli, our first speaker. “I’m 29, and I’m already on my third career.” For most of his life, Ky had valued the idea of the “5-year plan,” sketching out the major steps of his life ahead of time. However, this changed in 2007 when Ky was faced with a choice between joining the Dominican Novitiate in Denver or enrolling in a 5-year PhD in theology at Marquette University. Because of the time frame, Ky found himself leaning more toward Marquette. A few days before the University deadline, Ky called Father Wisdom at the Dominican Novitiate to let him know that he wouldn’t be joining the seminary. To his surprise, Fr. Wisdom was very nice and wished him the best. That afternoon, as Ky prayed the Angelus, he dwelt on the phrase “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, Be it done unto me according to your Word.” He thought about how Fr. Wisdom was ready to both welcome people and let them walk away. “I realized that I had to let something unexpected happen,” said Ky. Soon after, Ky called Fr. Wisdom back and joined the seminary. Although he only spent a short time there, ultimately, Ky saw his decision as a first step in learning to let go of his preconceptions.
Over a year later, after leaving the seminary as well as a job in politics, Ky moved to Delaware and started working for an insurance company. Although he was not thrilled with the job at first, Ky decided after a few months that he didn’t want it to become a “pit stop” in his life. He began to pray about his job, especially when he had to deal with a difficult customer. There was one particularly frustrating case in which the claimant seemed constantly bitter and hard to please. However, two months later, Ky received a phone call from the woman. She wanted to apologize for the way she had treated him and thank him for his help. “It was eye opening for me,” said Ky. “I realized my own limitations and how only God can satisfy some needs.”
There are many unexpected ways in which God can come into our lives. Like the narrator of the poem “The Pillar of the Cloud,” we have to trust that He will lead us, even when we cannot see our next step in the dark.
Anna’s Story: Saying the Big Yes
Like Mary in the story of the Angelus, Anna was always searching for a key moment in which she could give a big “Yes” to God. Some of these “yeses” included considering a religious vocation, participating in Teach for America, or joining Urban Promise. “I said Lord, I can do this! Can this be my big yes?” recalled Anna. However, each time she asked, Anna found that the answer was always a big no. Finally, around two years ago, Anna accepted a job teaching chemistry at her old high school. However, compared to her previous goals of helping underprivileged children or joining the religious life, this only seemed like a “small yes.” Meanwhile, she had to watch from the sidelines as close friends joined these organizations. “I felt jipped by God,” said Anna. “I wanted to give Him the big Yes, but He wouldn’t let me.”
Going back to the Angelus, the more she thought about it, the more Anna realized that perhaps God is casting her as Elizabeth rather than Mary. In essence, both women had the “same job,” ie, giving birth to two very important men (although, the big difference is that the child that Mary had was the son of God). However, in addition to being a mother, Elizabeth’s job was also to be there for Mary. Like Anna and her friends who have gone on to teach at-risk kids in urban areas, they too have the same job, but with different emphases. However, Anna feels that it is also her “job” to support her friends in their endeavors. Although it sounds like a simple task, the question of “how” do we support each other can be difficult. “What does support look like? What form does it take?” asked Anna. Do we put others before ourselves as Jesus did? Do we trust in the power of prayer to reach those that are far away from us?
Despite these questions and difficulties, in the end, Anne no longer feels that she has been cheated out of a huge calling. “I think it’s beautiful that my yes is little,” she said. “It gives me the time and energy to support the big yeses of others.”
Tom’s Story: You Are Your Vocation
For Thomas Bounds, our outgoing president, SMYPP hasn’t just been an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon every first and third Sunday of the month. Rather, it has been a “saving grace.” After graduating from Notre Dame in 2010, Tom found himself in a less than ideal situation. Living back at home, he had lost contact with most of his college friends. Furthermore, to help ease his student loans, Tom applied for a scholarship program that paid a large sum of his debt in exchange for working full time for a government agency. Between the long commute and the tedium of being at the bottom of the ladder, Tom quickly found himself feeling listless and frustrated.
That November, though, Tom and a small group of others founded SMYPP. Later, as the group began to grow and flourish, Tom accepted the role of president. “Suddenly, in this one small area of my life, I felt important,” said Tom. “I had dignity.” With a renewed sense of purpose, Tom devoted the majority of his free time to the group. Along with the rest leadership team, Tom has had the pleasure of seeing their hard work pay off: SMYPP is now the largest group in the Diocese of its kind and consistently draws in a diverse group of “well-balanced, engaged, fun, and attractive members.”
Once, during a summer retreat, Tom asked a priest, “what is my vocation?” In response, the priest pointed at Tom and said, “This is your vocation.” It is Tom’s sincere belief that this sense of personal discovery is what draws other young adults and young professionals to SMYPP. In a time now where most of us struggle with doubts about ourselves and our futures, groups like SMYPP can help us find “an inherent dignity and a vocation to live exactly as we are right here and now.”
To view more photos from our Dinner & Speaker event, check out our Flickr page here.