Location: Visalia, CA

Job Title: Systems Analyst

Education: Fresno Pacific University

Degree: M.A. in Strategic and Organizational Leadership

Samantha Luna, GIVEN ’22

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

I’m a Bay Area born and Central Valley raised first-generation cradle Catholic daughter. I enjoy soaking in my productive creativity side just as much as I enjoy resting and unplugging. I am eager to grow and learn in any area of life with a highly detailed and organized mindset with a ton of grace! I enjoy making others feel welcome, providing the tools to conquer any task, and living out my faith passionately and unapologetically. A fun fact about myself is that I have been on the journey of unlearning secular living, embracing my femininity, and have shifted my mindset to treat my body as a temple. As a result, I’ve learned to grow a love for physical fitness.

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

I’ve always wanted to be in a leadership role, someone who can provide resources to others and support those in their journey, no matter the circumstance. My professional work life reflects this as I’ve worked in educational and social settings and victim and family support nonprofit administration work.

As a youth, I was encouraged by my parents to be involved in ministry through our parish, youth group, and community events which provided a rich and exciting foundation for me to serve others. My family life has been a considerable reflection of the woman I am today, as my parents have always been a beautiful example of what it’s like to make sacrifices, remain firm in our faith, and always be open to learning new things.

As a 27-year-old, I’ve constantly given myself the grace to grow in many areas of life. However, it wasn’t until recently that I gave myself the grace and permission to slow down and listen to what I truly desire to be passionate about and live out my dreams while being patient with what the Lord has planned for me. As a first-generation daughter, it’s easy to slip through the cracks of living someone else’s dream.

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

I’ve been given two personal strengths: patience and being comfortable pivoting through mindset, choices, and actions. I utilize these daily in my marriage, friendships, and family dynamics, especially in my personal development. Another personal strength that has been blossoming is working on the virtue of prudence. Accepting when I’m having thoughts of pridefulness, recognizing when I’m being challenged in areas of my life that I don’t feel equipped in, and allowing myself to feel vulnerable instead of reactive have been fruitfully providing me growth to become a holy daughter of Christ and overall, an improved woman, wife, sister, friend, and God-willing, future mother.

What women inspire you, and why?

Two women who inspire me and challenge me are Mother Mary and my mother. Mother Mary was the mother I needed as a young adult. She provided comfort and tender love when I needed it the most. She helped me restore my love for the men in our world, especially those closest to me. She taught me to love others as she loved her son Jesus and not let me stray away from the path to holiness. The other woman, my mother, gave me tough love, but this kind of love taught me lessons I strongly resisted and later discovered my mom was looking out for me all along. It’s funny because now, as an adult that’s moved away and married, I always share with her how many moments I stumble throughout my day and think about how right she was about things. These are lessons I look back on and laugh at because I can see my growth, but most importantly, these moments taught me how much my mother loves me. She loves me even when I’m not easy to love. She taught me how to love unconditionally, despite hardship and turmoil. Both of my mothers’ love reflects Jesus.

Are there friends and mentors that you depend upon? How do they support you?

Having a close-knit circle of friends has dramatically supported my journey as a Catholic woman. It’s taught me the importance of creating meaningful friendships and which has helped me become a better friend and sister in Christ.

My mentor Sister Mary Rachel Craig, SOLT, has been a tremendous support throughout my journey as she’s set a strong foundation in always grounding me back to Christ.

These women strongly desire to become more Christ-like, and I can’t think of a better way to hold me accountable! We pour into one another.

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?

Some of my favorite prayers are the rosary, morning offering, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and consecrations! These took some time to get accustomed to as they can feel a tad bit intimidating at first, but if I could recommend a non-intimidating prayer for someone to start their day, it would be the morning offering. It sets the foundation for my day and prepares my heart to receive what the Lord has in store for me.

I recently did my first consecration a few months ago. It was the Consecration to St. Joseph prayed by Sister Miriam James Heidland, SOLT, on the Hallow app; I recommend this one if you need to trust the Lord and seek masculine protective guidance. It helped me grow in love with my husband, father, and brother gracefully. We must pray for the men in our life.

The Divine Mercy Chaplet allowed me to surrender to the Lord when I felt I didn’t deserve His love. The rosary is my best friend in prayer form, thanks to my mother, who taught me the importance and led by example of praying to our Mama Mary to intercede for us to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote?

My favorite quote is, “Faith over Fear.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been afraid or my heart feeling empty, and the only thing that I kept reminding myself of was to let my faith be stronger than my fear. It’s easier said than done, that’s for sure. But when we see the Lord’s grace shine upon us, having faith comes organically.

What were your key takeaways from the GIVEN Forum?

I had so many beautiful takeaways from the GIVEN Forum. One of my favorite moments to relive was the morning Father John Burns read us his “Love Letter from the Father.” My heart wasn’t ready to receive these powerful words, but the Lord has beautiful timing! Shortly after this talk, I attended confession and met with a mentor who practiced a form of therapy that allowed me to meditate in a safe space and asked what this safe space looked like and with whom I envisioned being there. It was at this moment that I realized my little girl heart and her wounds were being opened that day and ready to receive some healing and love finally. The Lord was ready to receive me, but He gave me His mother to love me and care for me, which is precisely what I had been searching for all this time, a sweet and tender loving Mother who saw my heart in a way I didn’t allow anyone, not even myself to see. I get knots in my throat, still thinking about this day. His love is merciful.

What was your GIVEN action plan? Describe its mission, audience, and impact.

My GIVEN action plan vision is to bring the presence of religious sisters to my parish for families, young girls, and women to seek relationships, community, and guidance. Sometimes we need a friend, a confidant, or a loved one to attend adoration, confession, or mass with. Since my parish holds the largest Catholic church on the West Coast, I firmly believe that having the presence of religious sisters at our parish will have a positive and loving effect on those who seek who deepen their relationship with Christ and the Church.

Could you tell us a bit about what motivated or led you to develop this action plan? Was this something that you had on your heart prior to this past year or was it something you developed through the GIVEN program?

Ever since I was a little girl, my heart has been on fire for the Lord, and I desired to be an altar server. I thought to myself, maybe this is how to be close to the Lord? Although I never served as an altar server, I spent most of my youth volunteering and being involved in my parish. Like many of my fellow ladies, we also yearn to be a sister to those around us and guide or advise them in their journey as they begin their education, career or life situations.

I eventually studied community help careers such as social work, and teaching; I even got into leadership. However, my heart was never filled. I wanted to serve at a deeper level. It wasn’t until I was at GIVEN that my heart was being nudged more than ever!

Something told me the Lord was calling me towards religious life, but I was shaken because I also desired to become a wife and mother. As I dug deeper and shared this with my fellow mentors and friends, I saw where the Lord was calling me to serve, and that was through building a community amongst our religious sisters. I wanted my fellow sisters to feel the love our religious sisters have for all of us.

How did you grow throughout this year as you worked with a mentor on your action plan? Were there any moments where you had doubts or felt like you had taken on too much of a challenge? If so, how did you overcome them?

I faced many closed doors as I was challenged with communicating with the correct folks to point me in the right direction. There were gaps in communications and emails that I did not get responses back. It got to the point where I began to question my intention with my action plan as self-doubt began to settle in. I also began to overthink, but thankfully my mentor was able to ground me and refocus on what we could do and asked me to reflect on what the Lord was calling me to do.

When mentorship began, I also had plenty of other things going on in my life. I was at a point in my life where I embarked on new journeys and had to say goodbye to some. I had just gotten married, I had moved out of my family home, I had just completed my master’s program, I attended the GIVEN forum, and I volunteered to be part of the leadership team at my parish young adult group. At this time, the best advice my mentor had advised me was, “Sometimes the Lord calls us to serve inside our home instead of outside of it.”

What were some of the fruits you saw from your action plan? What did you find most fulfilling in this process?

Hearing those around me reminding me to trust God’s plan is one thing, but it wasn’t until I took a moment to understand the weight that common phrase held that I began to let go and reflect on what the Lord wanted me to focus on. That was one of the fruits I saw come from my action plan. Prior to starting my action plan, the word “fruit” in my mind looked colorful, vibrant, and giving. Now, when I think of the word, I feel calm yet brave, still yet eager, and more loved than ever. Letting go of the mindset that I “had to get it done” no longer exists in my world. It’s now, “What is the Lord calling me to do?” and allowing myself to feel at peace within the storm; instead of trying to be in control.