Location: Danbury, CT

Job Title: Missionary

Organization: Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS)

Education: Aquinas College in Nashville, TN

Degree: Interdisciplinary Studies (Education K-5)

Olivia Casbarro, GIVEN ’16

“One of the biggest takeaways from the GIVEN Forum for me was knowing that I was not alone in my pursuit of holiness. GIVEN helped me to see how much women are entrusted with by Jesus and how we can live authentic femininity.” – Olivia Casbarro

Please share a little about yourself – feel free to include a fun fact!

On a freezing night in 2012, I looked up at Jesus in the Eucharist after reading the Gospel of John and began to discover who I was. As I gazed upon Him gazing upon me, I finally realized that I was loved and that He was the satisfaction of my soul. I came into the Catholic Church one year later and have spent the last six years begging of Him the question of St. Francis, “Who are you, oh most beloved God, and who am I?” I am a prized daughter trying each day to live in this identity. This is who I am. The more I live, though, the more I realize that Jesus made this life as an adventure to be had with Him and with others. Some of my favorite ways to live out this adventure are exploring old New England towns, drinking coffee in cozy coffee shops, hiking the highest mountains I can find, and getting lost in conversations with good friends.

Describe your professional work/ministry. How were you led to this? What are you passionate about?

During college I became deeply convicted of how important it is to live a balanced life. The four pillars of Dominican spirituality, prayer, study, community, and preaching, were presented to me as a means to a flourishing life in Christ. During my senior year at Aquinas College, Jesus began to foster in my heart a desire to bring the formation I had received at Aquinas to others. My heart burns to help them to not simply survive college, but thrive in relationship with Christ. As happens with providence, Jesus opened the door for me serve as a full-time missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) after graduation.

“I’m passionate about meeting college students where they are and accompanying them as they seek the answers to life’s deepest questions.”

I’m currently serving my first year as a missionary at Western Connecticut State University, which has brought me great joy as I get to live and share the Gospel with my students every day. I’m passionate about meeting college students where they are and accompanying them as they seek the answers to life’s deepest questions.

What are the personal strengths that you’ve been given and how do you utilize them?

God has endowed me with the desire to tenaciously pursue the truth wherever it may be, a systematic mind that can deduce and organize these truths, and a deep determination to bring to completion all that I begin. I have also been blessed with the gift of fortitude, which has enabled me to face various obstacles in my life and persevere through many trials.

“Jesus has given me a will that is strong as well as a heart that is tender. As a missionary, this enables me to both love students where they are as well as challenge them to become the women they are called to be.”

Jesus has given me a will that is strong as well as a heart that is tender. As a missionary, this enables me to both love students where they are as well as challenge them to become the women they are called to be. I am also able to help students to live ordered lives and increase their productivity while simultaneously affirming that they are not the sum of what they do, but are loved for who they are as created in God’s image.

What women inspire you, and why?

I’m continually inspired by Saint Catherine of Siena because her life is an example of action that flows from prayer. Catherine did not allow her own ambitions to drive her, but submitted to the will of God. As is seen in history, Catherine often acted with unprecedented boldness; however, Catherine did nothing that wasn’t first prepared in prayer. Catherine inspires me to ensure that all of my action flows from divine intimacy that is fostered in prayer.

“I’m continually inspired by Saint Catherine of Siena because her life is an example of action that flows from prayer.”

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?

I had the opportunity to go to Mass and the Divine Office with the Nashville Dominicans for all four years of college, and this fostered in me a love for liturgical prayer. For me, the Mass is a divine encounter with my Beloved, a time to offer all of my heart’s joys, sufferings, and desires on the altar and be filled with His love.

“For me, the Mass is a divine encounter with my Beloved, a time to offer all of my heart’s joys, sufferings, and desires on the altar and be filled with His love.”

Since becoming a FOCUS missionary I’ve had the honor of not only attending Mass daily, but also making a daily holy hour. This has deepened my relationship with Jesus in unfathomable ways. Holy hour provides a time for me to live in what Catherine of Siena calls the cell of self-knowledge and the cell of knowledge of God. Aside from the Office, Mass, and Holy Hour, I very much enjoy praying the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote?

“Eyes on Him. Heart for Him. Hand in His.” – Sr. Mary Madeline Todd, O.P.

What were your key takeaways from the 2016 GIVEN Forum?

During the rosary procession through the Catholic University of America campus I remember wrapping around a corner and catching a glimpse of all the women behind me. I remember thinking in that moment, “this is the path to Heaven.” Seeing that sea of women all going in the same direction, side by side, one behind the other, asking Mary for her intercession filled me with hope for the future. One of the biggest takeaways from the Forum for me was knowing that I was not alone in my pursuit of holiness. GIVEN helped me to see how much women are entrusted with by Jesus and how we can live authentic femininity.

“At GIVEN we experienced a dynamic atmosphere that encouraged discussion, questions, and critical thinking.”

One of the most beautiful things about the GIVEN Forum was the open dialogue that permeated conversations over the course of the conference. We were not attending stagnant lectures where highly successful people simply spoke at us; at GIVEN we experienced a dynamic atmosphere that encouraged discussion, questions, and critical thinking.