The GIVEN Forum gave me a space to explore my words of the year: listen & maybe… My small group and my mentors at GIVEN were so encouraging. My mentor Amy McInerny said, “I think your ministry is going to grow into something more than you expect. Because it’s needed. National, maybe even global.” I was so shocked it made me cry. The “maybe,” I realized, is where God can accomplish.
Please share a little about yourself – feel free to include a fun fact!
I am a Filipina-American speaker, activist, and artist from Lafayette, LA. I’m a lifelong artist who enjoys music ministry, musical theatre, dancing, and singing/songwriting. I try to radiate the joy of the Gospel and the Louisiana joie de vivre! I love Cajun & Filipino parties because they always include great company, good music, and delicious dishes! Fun fact: I sang at the American Idol Experience in Disney’s Hollywood Studios twice. Dreams do come true!
Describe your professional work. How were you led to this? What are you passionate about?
I love promoting missions wholeheartedly. My background is in college ministry, pro-life advocacy, nonprofit communications, and high school education. I had many beautiful jobs, but I’ve learned that God can use me anywhere (when I am open), including when I worked as a barista, ESL teacher, and gymnastics coach!
God always surprised me in my journey. When I wanted to be a foreign missionary, He called me to stay home with my family. When I was prepared to stay, He opened a door for me to leave. Through it all, I am led by His grace and peace and am supported 100% by my family and loved ones.
My ministry was born out of doubt and suffering, but only because my story also includes hope and love. The most defining parts of my childhood were because 1) I was a second-generation immigrant and 2) I was abandoned by my biological father as an unborn baby. These are things that once caused deep shame, but now are healed wounds that I rejoice in because those are the areas God poured His grace. That is the firm foundation of my personal and professional ministry!
“My ministry was born out of doubt and suffering, but only because my story also includes hope and love.”
What are the personal strengths that you’ve been given and how do you utilize them?
As stated previously, I am a speaker, activist, and artist; I think these are my God-given gifts! I love using my voice to speak about my story; to be a testimony of God’s love and mercy. Additionally, I want to educate and empower people to understand and live the joy of the Gospel and the joy of life. All of this is guided by how I view the world as an artist, through the lens of beauty. Beauty, which can point us to Truth and Goodness. Not only do I use creative expression in my life, but also creative perception. I love connecting with people and speaking to them in a way that makes sense to them. The creative perception helps me with this both in front of large audiences and in intimate and private conversations.
“I want to educate and empower people to understand and live the joy of the Gospel and the joy of life.”
What women inspire you, and why?
I’m continually inspired by all of the women in my life! On both the Filipina and Cajun sides of my family, I am surrounded by fierce and loving women, and I would not be who I am today without them. I am also blessed that many of my friendships are with very holy, compassionate, and vivacious women, including some new friends from the GIVEN network.
My favorite saint is St. Teresa of Calcutta; she taught me so much about loving trust in God, despite the darkness of not feeling His presence for decades. During my own time of darkness after finding out about my aborted sibling, I turned to the “saint of darkness” for inspiration to continue on with my mission in sharing the Gospel of Life. In the pro-life world, my real-life hero is Aimee Murphy (founder of Rehumanize International). She taught me so much about how to be Catholic in the world, and her self-acceptance radically changed the way I viewed being a woman in the Church.
Are there friends and mentors that you depend upon? How do they support you?
I am overwhelmingly supported by both my mentors and my friends. My mentors like former bosses, spiritual directors, counselors, and my “mom friends” believed in me for what feels like my whole life. By offering a prayer, listening ear, an encouraging word, and especially by nudging me towards open doors and opportunities, I feel like my vocation has always been guided by these wise, trustworthy, and loving voices.
I am who I am because of years of formation through beautiful friendship. What is a seemingly ordinary thing, friendship, is actually the most extraordinary thing of all! As an unmarried young adult in the Church, my chosen family post-college is my Bible study friend group. They are uplifting, joyful, servant-hearted, and best of all, authentic. The ordinary day-to-day in community helps me grow in virtue and charity and helps me grow into myself. (We actually have our own Action Plan together called Friendship Explored now!)
“What is a seemingly ordinary thing, friendship, is actually the most extraordinary thing of all!”
What is the best advice/encouragement you’ve received about vocational discernment?
“If you feel called to go in a certain direction, just take one step.” My pastor, Fr. Bryce Sibley, told me this in college when I was praying about being a foreign missionary, but this advice has been re-told to me in new ways by many people in many discernments. The beautiful thing that Fr. Sibley taught me: you can take a step forward & you can take a step back.
“If you feel called to go in a certain direction, just take one step.”
As a recovering perfectionist, I thought that every step had to be the right step in the right direction, but only in recent years did I realize that sometimes that “the right direction” might have an expiration date. Before, I would get caught up in the discernment phase without actually moving in any direction…stuck in rumination. Someone could look at my life and think “Wow she’s really unstable, she doesn’t know what she wants, she’s switched jobs so many times,” but I am at peace knowing that I’ve tried to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit each time I felt called to leave, was laid off, or moved across the country. (Ok, that last one was only the one time.) There were many wrong steps on my path to holiness and to my vocation, but at least there were steps.
Prayer is essential for everyone, but especially for women who are active in the life and mission of the Church. Do you have any favorite devotions or prayers?
In Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, she poetically writes about the act of eucharisteo, or thanksgiving. In a girls group book study (with my amazing college spiritual director, Robin Herbert) this prayerful practice shaped my worldview. To this day, the themes from that book guide my daily prayer, contemplative outlook, and my devotion to gratitude.
Years later, in the heart of Advent, I went to a parish mission where a Sister of Life gave a talk about hopeful expectancy, and I was given a Litany of Trust. It is now my go-to prayer! If nothing else, I wholeheartedly pray “Jesus, I trust in You!” each day. (I have a daily alarm on my phone that my closest friends recognize!) I consider myself a “Litany of Trust” evangelizer because I always hold extra copies of the mini Sisters of Life prayer trifold to give away. As Mother Teresa said to ethicist John Kavanaugh, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust.”
Do you have a favorite inspirational quote?
“Anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly.”
This might seem strange and even be a bit of a bummer for some people, but for me, it’s like a sigh of relief. I don’t remember the origin, but it was from a random anecdote from some internet person. The performer/perfectionist/achiever in me is appalled by that quote, but as someone who is budding in their identity as Daughter of God, it reminds me that I don’t have to be perfect and polished to be lovable. When I was laid off from my job (the first time), I remember thinking “I’m a failure,” and a consoling voice of God the Father told me, “And you’re Mine.” Even if all of my gifts were stripped of me, I know God would not love me any differently.
As I pursue the work of God in my personal and professional life, I look to this quote to remember that it’s okay that I don’t know exactly what I’m doing! Starting a nonprofit is tough, but if it’s worth doing well, it’s worth doing poorly.
What were your key takeaways from the 2019 GIVEN Forum?
The GIVEN Forum gave me a space to explore my words of the year: listen & maybe. At the time, I was a “retired” speaker and was prepared to receive and listen to GIVEN speakers. Stephen Giordano’s session was on…you guessed it: listening. It spoke exactly into where I was at in my life. He asked for a volunteer, and my arm shot up. I did a listening exercise on stage with Stephen, and he modeled empathetic listening. I felt heard. It inspired me to be intentional about making people feel heard the way I did, especially when they share their suffering.
“Maybe” was a word that meant possibilities with no planning. This is very hard for me because I enjoy organization and strategy. But living in the “maybe” of starting a sibling ministry allowed so much room for the Holy Spirit to move and inspire. My small group and my mentors at GIVEN were so encouraging. My mentor Amy McInerny said, “I think your ministry is going to grow into something more than you expect. Because it’s needed. National, maybe even global.” I was so shocked it made me cry. The “maybe,” I realized, is where God can accomplish.
“The “maybe,” I realized, is where God can accomplish.”
What was your GIVEN action plan? Describe its mission, audience, and impact.
My GIVEN Action Plan is now a growing nonprofit called “Even This Way,” and my mission is “to bring forgiveness to families, compassion to communities, and healing to the hurting.” Specifically, my outreach is to people who lost a sibling to abortion. Oftentimes, those people may have been considered for abortion themselves. I brought my action plan to graduate school at Divine Mercy University, where I am researching the effect of abortion on families and siblings and learning how to help with their healing process. (At DMU, it’s my capstone project.)
While I may not have a large audience or many stories of impact yet, I speak with dozens of siblings all over the country about their story-of-origin. There are many similarities and parallels that fascinate me and break my heart at the same time, and I am growing in my capacity for love and compassion through these siblings. Many of them are sharing their stories with me on my blog https://www.eventhisway.org/blog, and afterwards, they’ve shared how cathartic it is for them to write it down. I’ve been sharing my story to thousands of people since December of 2015, but since GIVEN, I’ve shared the mission and ministry of Even This Way to more than 2,500 people.