How do you walk the path of faith? Where and how do you encounter God? How does one find answers to questions when sometimes it’s hard to articulate what you’re seeking? These are all very personal questions we each wrestle with and our solutions will be equally unique. In this and subsequent articles we will share the story of individuals who’ve offered up their experiences and observations as an example of intentional discipleship: the active and engaged commitment to love and serve Our Lord.
Faith in Action Interview with Lynn Ballance
Lynn Ballance is quiet, thoughtful, generous and filled with humility. When asked to witness her faith to her parish community her immediate response was one of ‘Who am I that I should be singled out as an example of intentional discipleship?’ It’s exactly for this reason of her ‘ordinary-ness’ that she was asked to offer up her story. She now understands how others might relate to her journey and perhaps find support as they search for a deeper relationship with Jesus.
Lynn didn’t grow up Catholic, in fact her background was within a fundamentalist protestant tradition. She and her husband Eddie felt a need to explore, to find connections within a community, and in that vein they tried a number of congregations similar to those of her childhood. At the same time Lynn reports ‘nudges’ that there was something else out there for her family. She recalled the strong faith commitments of a good friend and some neighbors who were Catholic, and it made her curious. Lynn found a Franciscan website and began to learn what Catholic beliefs were. ‘The website explained Catholic beliefs in such a beautiful way, it resonated with me and I was intrigued.’ This provoked a visit to the St. Francis parish here in Raleigh. When attending mass Lynn felt God was present with her in a new and different manner; this meant a conscious decision to learn, explore, question, pray and discern. Following the RCIA program Lynn and her husband were received in full communion with the church in 2006, and joined us at St. Raphael in 2007.
RCIA was a rich and powerful experience, but in many ways it was scratching the surface. ‘There was so much more to learn and I wanted to know more, to grow deeper in understanding, to strengthen my relationship to God. The Wednesday Morning Women’s Bible Study Group has literally been an answer to my prayers, I know I belong here.’ Not that this was an easy commitment; it required admitting she didn’t know much about the Bible, there were new people to get to know, and it meant voicing her thoughts and questions about her personal faith if she were to grow. Anxiety was certainly part of her early experience, but Lynn wants everyone to know that conquering those butterflies was so worth the effort. ‘These ladies are so dear to me, it’s such a great community. The experience is so rich; it keeps me focused on my faith, and helps me be accountable to not only the members of the Bible Study, but to Jesus as I approach my life. It’s so easy to get caught up in daily stresses and commitments. Bible Study makes me switch gears and keep my priorities in line with my faith’. Lynn also would like folks to know that being part of a Small Christian Community like Bible Study fits with any personality. ‘I’m quieter by nature; sharing personal insights, understandings and experiences might seem awkward to people, but everyone respects your comments and thoughts. Often it’s someone else’s take on a question that really provokes you to think deeper.’
Lynn has also put her faith into action at Catholic Parish Outreach (CPO). Over the years her involvement has grown. ‘I’m there a couple days a week. I find it so fulfilling knowing that I’m doing God’s work, that we make such an impact in the lives of those who are receiving the blessings of our efforts and everyone’s generosity, though to be honest, we truly receive so much more than what we give as volunteers. This work is so fulfilling! ’ This is again an area where Lynn closed her eyes, took a deep breath and said yes to the invitation to be a team leader one day a week. ‘Leadership isn’t something that comes naturally to me, but I trusted that the Lord wanted me to do this, and you know what, it’s been just fine. It’s an honor to be of service to the Lord by helping other people. I see Christ in this work, I know this is where God wants me to be.’
When asked what she’d like to be the main message to her fellow seekers and followers Lynn thought deeply. ‘If you are interested in doing something, take the leap of faith, take a step, an action and see where it leads you.’ ‘My life is so different. I’ve done things that surprised myself and my family. I am happy, I am challenged to grow, I am focused on my relationship with the Lord and what’s important in life. This is all good.’ Lynn also offered a resource. ‘I’m currently reading a book on Ignatian spirituality, ‘The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything’ by James Martin. There’s a path to Jesus for everyone; your acts of stewardship are bridges to bring you closer to Him.’
If you think God might be ‘nudging you’ to explore questions of faith, to deepen your relationship with God, to perhaps move in another direction on your faith journey, our parish offers numerous ways you could come closer to Jesus. It’s sometimes a bit confusing to hear Him talking to you amid all the noise and pressures of our daily life. Come to mass, spend some time with the Lord in Holy Adoration, and pray. Please connect with Leo Moreda, Director of Lifelong Faith Formation for information on Small Christian Communities and the various faith groups here at the parish. Janet Schirripa is here to also assist if you’re looking for ways to become active through acts of stewardship; caring for others, building relationships within our community, or sharing the Good News. God has been calling you; pick up the phone.