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SOM: Coming home with renewed faith


STAYTON — Kyle Nielson recently arrived at home to his parish, Immaculate Conception Church, after attending a five-month School of Mission coordinated by by ICPE Institute for World Evangelization. He said the experience has given him a profound new understanding of God’s love and he wants to learn more.

 Beginning in February, Nielson, 22, lived at St. Gerard's Monastery in Wellington, New Zealand. The outgoing, athletic young man lived with 13 other participants in a Catholic community where the goal was to be evangelized so that they might evangelize others.

“I had agreed to go on a five month vacation in New Zealand,” Nielson said. “God had very different plans than I did. It has changed my life for the better and I will never be the same.”

Prior to the trip, Nielson admitted, he was a one-hour-a-week Sunday Catholic. “When I first got there, I struggled with almost everything in regards to faith,” he said. “But over time, with God at work in my heart, I came to realize that he was there. He was truly real. I couldn't touch him tangibly with my fingertips, but I could see him now in my own life and the blessings I have been given.”

According to the institute, the Schools of Mission offer the missionary lifestyle as a valid option for today’s Catholic youth. Participants, generally aged between 18 and 40, come from countries around the world and take part in four months of Catholic teaching followed by a month of hands-on missionary experience.

Their days are filled with prayer, liturgy, lectures, small groups, teamwork and fellowship. During the one-month outreach phase, participants are given the opportunity to experience hands-on missionary work — home visits, street outreach, school retreats, parish seminars and prison ministry.

Having a relationship with Christ was a dramatic revelation for Nielson during the school. “To allow Jesus into your life to lead your actions and to let him love you personally was almost weird to me, even though I have been attending Mass my whole life,” Nielson said. When Nielson returned, his parents, Mike and Lisa, were impressed with how much his faith was strengthened. His friends have even commented about how wise he seems now, he said.

“This experience, in part with my own research, has completely solidified my Catholic faith,” said Nielson. “So often we never give thought to what it is we profess to believe, never learn about it, or experience the power of it,” he said. “But, through the lectures, the time in prayer and especially the outreach, I really began to see and feel the healing that comes in the name of Jesus.”

The school’s outreach changed Nielson’s understanding of evangelism and turned out to be his favorite part.

“As Christians, Christ commands us to evangelize, to spread the gospel to all people. Anyone who has found a good thing promotes it to their friends and neighbors. It is as simple as that, though of course it still takes a lot of courage. I realized as well, you don't have to be a theological scholar to evangelize. You just share your own testimony of change and pray it touches their hearts.”

(Artical was featured on 8 September 2011 on www.catholicsentinel.org/)

Kyle Nielson, USA

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