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To my dear friends in Totus Tuus...

Totus Tuus has a unique but essential presence in the world at this very point in time, and I feel blessed and humbled to be the recipient of such love. Growing up in a faithful Catholic family, love for the church was always modeled to me and became my own. In meeting Dorrie and being a part of Totus Tuus, God revealed my capacity for a personal relationship with the Trinity and His longing for it to deepen. The world teaches women to be self-sufficient, be satisfied with disappointment, and settle for less than God’s plan; I fell into this mindset despite my Catholic faith. It caused me to settle in my relationship with God, as well, and I felt the effects of that in many ways. This mindset prevented me from anticipating how much grace was waiting for me upon moving to Pittsburgh five years ago as a brand-new nurse.


Most people, even in our Catholic community, are clueless about consecrated life and having a spousal union with Jesus Christ. I was ignorant of the divine reality of how deeply Christ loves me, and his joy in that union with me. It was unknown to me, but my soul was searching for that exact love. Five years ago, I met a friend, Cassandra, who shared my passion in faith, and we formed a friendship centered in Christ. That relationship grew, and through our mutual spiritual zeal, we held each other accountable in prayer, relationships and discovering the Word of God. During this time, as a 23-year-old, I had wounds from my nursing career, boys, family life, and friendships- all of which God wanted to heal through prayer. These wounds were simply “struggles” to me at the time, and I could not see how my self-sufficiency and denial of a deeper relationship with the Trinity kept me from healing. God worked through all of this and led Cassandra to introduce me to Dorrie for spiritual direction. Spiritual direction with Dorrie taught me discernment, devotion, and openness to let God lead and heal. Discerning based on God’s love for me created deeper friendships, a better sense of mission to nursing, and confidence despite seasonal hardship. I became content to embrace the present moment, as I saw Christ working in the day to day, not the future or the past. Deepening my prayer life led me to seek Jesus more than my own plans and eventually led me to living in the Totus Tuus community.


Last summer, I planned to venture out to the west coast, as a travel nurse, with hopes to explore the area before going to nurse anesthesia school the following spring. Travel nurse contracts continuously fell through, and my frustration grew as my plans seemed unattainable. One day, exhausted from getting my hopes up about getting a contract, I randomly opened my Bible to Hosea 6:3.


“Let us know, let us strive to know the Lord; as certain as the dawn is his coming. He will come to use like spring rain that waters the earth.”


I was consoled-- despite all my worries and frustration at closed doors. From these words, I felt the Father’s assurance in a plan and His request for me to wait, rest and be patient.


A week later, I stayed with Dorrie and Megan in Pittsburgh. I had intended this to be a short-term visit, while waiting for a travel contract to come through. By the end of that week, my prayer had changed to, “Lord, let my heart seek what is from you.” My plans were no longer my focus because my heart surrendered to Christ at seeing such beauty in the Totus Tuus community. Ironically, the very day my heart let go of plans to be a travel nurse, I was offered a contract in Arizona. There was, and is no doubt in my mind, that God freely offered me a choice, but I knew he desired more for me! He revealed His love for me when he brought me to Totus Tuus. So, I turned down the contract with joy and confidence and followed a new path: to live for six months with the Eucharist and grow in my capacity to receive and reciprocate God’s love. This journey- moving to Pittsburgh, meeting Cassandra and living in community with Totus Tuus- was God’s plan. In retrospect, I recognize that my soul longed for an intimate relationship with Christ and I hadn’t even realized it.


The body of Christ lives in the Totus Tuus community, and he calls women to recognize the fullness of His love through you, His brides. As a disciple of the Totus Tuus community, I have experienced fullness of life, Christ-centered friendships , and richness in the Church I belong to in Pittsburgh. Through the spiritual direction I received from Totus Tuus, I learned to open my life to God. I embraced a new way of life: daily Mass, and a holy hour in Eucharistic adoration, a nightly Examen, and a new lifestyle surrounded and supported by the richness of our Catholic faith.


These practices changed my interior life- and then my life outside the Totus Tuus community! My days as a nurse became alive and meaningful again because I could see the fruit of my prayer in the work I was doing. I noticed God’s hand in my patient assignments, and I freely shared my faith with them and their families. Because of a deep interior life that was formed by daily Ignatian prayer, God’s love was received and given to those in my care. I felt His consolation in my nursing vocation and His confidence surrounding my work, which I know will continue in this new journey to nurse anesthesia.


Part of living in the Totus Tuus community involved a dating fast which, after the exhaustion of dating in today's world, I was more than happy to embrace. I realized that God longs to know my heart- the best of me and the worst- and His desire was to heal the disillusions and insecurities that dating had created in my life. Dorrie’s transparency and devotion to a spousal union with Christ encouraged me to see Him that way, and opened my heart to the reality of His love. I committed myself to attend monthly retreats. Prioritizing time for monthly retreat with Dorrie and Megan showed me that God desires my presence and fullness of heart for Him above all else. Moving forward, taking part in these silent contemplative retreats enables me to continue doing retreats on my own. I can retire to Him, in any season and I plan to do so.


Living in the Totus Tuus community taught me to live out the liturgical year to the fullest. This translates to understanding what Christ lived and uniting it to my day-to-day life as a Catholic. Advent was a season of true rest for me this past year. I dropped my hours at the hospital to attend daily Mass, spend more time in Eucharistic adoration, and to really focus on giving to Christ through community service at Saint Mary of Mercy Parish. Perhaps the greatest gift of my time with Totus Tuus came during Advent, as we were blessed to take a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. From this experience, my personal relationship and daughterhood to Mary came alive in many ways- an immense grace that I am still joyfully discovering. Then, Holy week brought about a deeper understanding of Christ’s bearing my struggle out of love and His desire to have intimacy with me in everything. Through our way of living Holy Week, I realized the beauty of prayer in fellowship and the true consolation Jesus finds in the women at the foot of the Cross. Meeting Maria Elena during this time was an immense gift, and I continue to thank God for the blessing of knowing her and discovering her heart for the Lord.


My time living in the Totus Tuus community cannot be spoken of with enough reverence, joy, and gratitude. Precisely when I needed it most, this community “came like rain” into my life. Your mission is a flood of grace into the lives of Catholic women; a compass to Christ which the world so desperately needs. Your guidance and prayers are transformative, and I am humbled to be a testimony to the light shining in Totus Tuus. I know that many more women will be led to you, God has abundant plans. Please know of my love and prayers for each one of you and for the mission of Totus Tuus in this world.


Blessings,


Elyse

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