Asked to complete the sentence, “When I think of Jesus, __,” Troy Culver, a freshman at Northwest High School in Jackson, promptly replied, “I think of him as my big brother. He’s always there to talk to. I feel his presence, and the Holy Spirit, especially when I pray alone or am at adoration. It’s hard to explain how I feel but it’s like I’m complete.”
Troy didn’t always feel this way, yet these new insights came home with him after participating in Alive in You with his youth group from St. John the Evangelist. (Alive in You is a Catholic conference and service camp.) Troy was eager to be with his friends, have fun and do some service on this summer mission trip. What he didn’t anticipate was the huge growth spurt his faith would take in six transformative days of service and prayer.
Troy says, “Before the mission trip, even though I’ve tried to live as one, I didn’t really understand I was living as a missionary disciple. Being a disciple, for me, means following Jesus’ teachings and helping others understand them, and I’ve always tried to do that. When something comes up, I’ll tell my friends what Jesus did for us. I teach them about Jesus as much as I can. Some people make fun of me for being Catholic and I just say, ‘Hey, I’m following my God and his teachings are right for me.’
“The biggest discovery I took away from the trip was realizing Jesus was human and knows how we feel. Because of that, my prayer life changed and I talk more to Jesus and ask, ‘Can you help me out? Show me what to do.’ It might be a few days, but words pop in my head and, if it goes along with Scripture, I figure it’s Jesus’ answer.”
The theme for the mission trip, Holy Trinity, affirmed Troy’s pretty solid comprehension of God as his spiritual Father. And while Troy admits he relates most to his new image of relational Jesus, he accepted the challenge to invite the Holy Spirit into his life. The peace that transcended him was an unexpected surprise.
“My relationship with the whole Trinity has changed a lot. I had an ‘awe moment’ before adoration when we were told that God the Father and Jesus the Son were going to be with us. I had never thought about it like that before. I finally got it and everything connected. We went to adoration and I had a really deep, heart-to-heart [conversation] with God.”
For the remainder of the trip, Troy arose early every morning to attend the optional hour-long adoration service. He recalls, “Starting my day off with God was really amazing!”
This recent experience solidified for Troy a feeling he’s carried since he was about 9 or 10 – that perhaps he is being called to the priesthood. He says, “Being at Alive in You made that feeling stronger. I had a talk with God and a sense came over me that priesthood is what I am being called to do in the future.”
Excited about his role as a missionary disciple, Troy is an altar server, helps out at church functions, will soon be an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and attends youth group. “I love being there with friends and learning about God. I make attending a priority,” he explains.
Troy nourishes his zeal with regular Mass attendance and reception of the Eucharist: “God gifts me with joy and peace every time. Receiving Jesus is simply the best part of Mass.”