The School of Holiness is truly a gift from God. As a theology major, I was not sure how much I would get out of the three weeks, but to my delight, I found the healing love of God’s mercy. What the School of Holiness teaches is a mixture of psychology and theology in order to develop spiritually as a human. Instead of pushing aside emotions and temptations, we were taught to face them head on, and we began to understand how to love ourselves in spite of our shortcomings. Without first being gentle with ourselves, we are not able to be gentle with others. The psychology used was important for my own spirituality because I have blamed myself for so long when I was experiencing normal human emotions. God showed me that He created me with all of my emotions, and I should not feel ashamed when I am experiencing an emotion. These practical lessons of life sometimes need to be spelled out for us, and the curriculum we studied eloquently flowed through some of these natural human occurrences. We were also taught how to structure our prayer life through contemplation. Contemplative prayer has been a huge blessing in my life because it allows me to invite God in to every area of my life; together with God I am able to discern how to live each day in order to be a light to the world. I would encourage every young adult to prayerfully consider attending the School of Holiness because the lessons that I learned are so valuable for human development. I cannot forget the people who surrounded me on the three week spiritual journey were all amazing people who have inspired me to continue to grow and spread God’s love to the world. Everyone who attended brought something special to the three weeks, and I could not imagine even one of them not being there. The School of Holiness has helped enflame the love of God in each attendee’s heart, and I know He will do great things through each of us.
Lauren Bergeron, SOH student 2015
There are three amazing things I got out of the School of Holiness. The first was a deep and rich relationship with God and our heavenly family, the second was a couple of friendships that will last a lifetime, and the third was a fun and unique experience that taught me some truths about myself and about the world. Three weeks with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met prepared me to go back into the world with the courage, confidence, and knowledge that I will always have my School of Holiness family, earthly Catholic family, heavenly family, and Jesus backing me. How can we fail? School of Holiness is truly an unforgettable experience. Every young adult should come and meet their family!
Samuel Carter, SOH student 2015 and 2016
While I was at the School of Holiness I was fascinated by the teachings on human development; but, it was once I was back home dealing with day to day life again that I really started to think wow, these teachings are real and they work. You start to see that slowly your thinking begins to become more mature and compassionate. I’ve found clarity and freedom, along with the ability to recognize situations and thoughts for what they really are. Through these teachings the Lord has been able to reach me in certain areas of my life where I greatly needed His healing.
Caralyn Laurenti, SOH student 2015
The School of Holiness has totally opened my eyes and my heart in many ways. It has had a huge impact on me since I left Ireland. I felt so blessed to be given the opportunity. When I first heard about SOH, I was skeptical, nervous and unsure about leaving the country for the first time by myself. But as my Aunt and Uncle kept mentioning it, I just had a feeling I needed to be there. God was trying to tell me I needed this experience and this amazing opportunity to reconnect with Him and myself. So I was off. When I got there, it was not at all what I had expected. The people, the environment, the love was just there. During our three weeks, we all became closer and connected as one. It was a relief to feel welcomed and for people to accept me as I am. I felt free to be myself. It was so open and I couldn’t help but feel the love and grace around me. It has given me joy and happiness. Everyone I met forever has a place in my heart. It felt like we were all old friends at a reunion. Whether it was dancing and singing around the campfire, Ping-Pong matches, or going down to Chapter One for some hot chocolate, we became like one big family. I needed this journey to find myself and understand some tough things going on in my life . . . and work on my relationship with God. The teachings have left me equipped, giving me understanding and clarity on some of the issues I’ve been dealing with back home. A big thing that I learned during SOH was how much I am loved. No matter the obstacles I face, I know God is never going to judge me, that He will forgive and love me no matter what . . . I can forgive myself. Also, I can love myself for who I am and no matter what I look like. Everything that I learned whether it was in class, Mass or just talking with people at dinner, gave me clarity and I knew I could bring everything I was taught back home with me. And I did. I recently have been working with my mom and sister teaching them what I learned and constantly trying to better myself. I look back on all the memories, constantly talking to some of the wonderful people I met, who now have become some of my closest friends. Even though I know we are spread out miles apart, I know we are always together in spirit. I miss them every day and I will always thank my Aunt and Uncle for introducing me to the SOH program. I thank God for all the friendships and amazing memories.
Madalynn Kanipe, SOH student 2015 and 2016
The School of Holiness really changed my life. I came into the program very unsure of who I was as a person and I left feeling stronger in my faith than ever before. I met so many amazing friends and learned so much about myself and about my spirituality. I would highly recommend SOH and hope to take part in the program again this upcoming year.
Isabella Peceli, SOH student 2015
In July 2014 I went to Cavan, Ireland, where I attended a religious retreat called the School of Holiness. My time there would be one of my most life altering experiences in the brief 17 years that I’d had on planet earth. Within this time I would meet people from all over the world, including a man whom I can now call friend, who lives in Egypt, and another from India, and many from Ireland and the USA. I would realize a totally different culture from the one I was familiar with, from occasionally watching a herd of cattle block the small rural roads, to glancing out the car window to see a crumbling castle in the distance.
The time was made all the more thrilling by the SOH daily classes. I received an excellent educational experience, which was very informative of the human condition. I grew to understand in a much deeper sense the workings of the brain and the part it plays in shaping our relationships with those around us. Upon reaching the peak of Croagh Patrick Mountain I grew in my relationship with God, simply from the journey taken.
But also, to my astonishment, I found many like-minded people and kindred souls hidden among the Irish. People who very much reminded me of those back home, and in the same comfortable way I talked to a family member, I could also engage with many I met, off the street in Ireland, as if I had known them much longer than five seconds.
Overall my School Of Holiness experience will certainly be one I relate to fellow young adults, and one which I hope many others experience as well.
Brogan Stec, SOH student 2014
Here in the desert around Cairo, how often I wish for those cool green days of Irish summer, which I spent at SOH! Our experience there reminds me of the Exodus, where “All drank the same spiritual drink, since they drank from the spiritual rock which followed them, and that rock was Christ” (1 Co 10).
In 2012 and 2014, SOH became my oasis after months of violent upheaval and uncertainty during the so-called Arab Spring revolution. Then later with the overthrow of the Islamic regime, Egypt once more became a volcano with assassinations, church burnings, young Christians kidnapped, forced conversions, etc.
Just when I had given up hope of finding a way to take a break from the stress, I discovered the DFOT website with the announcement of the summer SOH. “Lord, is this for me? WOW!”
“An impossible dream, Nabil!” my friend reminded me. “We are not in Florida!” he joked. “You’re a peasant farm boy from a poor Nile village. Where you gonna get the money? And, besides, you’ll never get a visa!” I replied, “I once learned a wise saying: ‘Do your best, and God will do the rest.’” Then I whispered, “Jesus, I trust in you!” I kept on knocking, so by amazing grace, he eventually opened the door.
Arriving at the Dublin airport, I recalled my teacher’s advice about English: “Use it, or lose it!” “No pain, no gain!” My first day at SOH, I wondered if I had landed on Mars, but soon was making new friends, discovering new insights in our daily Catechism, Mass and Rosary, in English. It almost seemed like I was hearing the Gospel again for the first time. Meeting other Catholic students from different countries, different cultures, and different languages, I also really understood Catholic, i.e. Universal, for the first time.
Nabil Azmy, SOH student 2012 and 2014