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home : features : people of faith

9/12/2013 9:00:00 AM
Teen who came back to faith thinking about religious life
KYLIE ADVISES OTHER people in discernment to pray the Rosary, attend Mass often, find a spiritual director and make regular confessions: “Draw close to Mary [and] the Eucharist. If you’re worried that you have a vocation, stop worrying, because everybody has a vocation, and that’s to love God. I feel like God works through what you want to do as well.
KYLIE ADVISES OTHER people in discernment to pray the Rosary, attend Mass often, find a spiritual director and make regular confessions: “Draw close to Mary [and] the Eucharist. If you’re worried that you have a vocation, stop worrying, because everybody has a vocation, and that’s to love God. I feel like God works through what you want to do as well." For young people skeptical of religion, give “God a chance to work in your life. Some people are very scientific and can’t open themselves up to something they can’t see.”

It was only two years ago when Kylie Spinelli of Glens Falls begrudgingly attended a Catholic youth conference to fulfill a requirement for confirmation - a sacrament she only intended to receive to appease her parents.

At that point, "I didn't really care," she said. "I was like, 'There's no way I'm going to be hanging out with Jesus freaks.'"

But today, the 18-year-old is discerning a vocation to religious life: "It's crazy how God works," she said, laughing.

Kylie, who just started liberal arts studies at SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury, attended St. Mary's/St. Alphonsus School in Glens Falls through eighth grade, but her family didn't go to Mass, so she became apathetic about the faith.

"When I went to public [high] school, it essentially just got worse," she added. "I wasn't living my life for Christ [and] I was drawing away from Him."

Things changed for her at the 2011 St. Isaac Jogues Youth Conference, held at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville.

"That little thing inside of me said, 'You need to go to confession,'" Kylie recalled. During eucharistic adoration, "I remember kneeling down and feeling like I was hit with a Mack truck of emotion. Jesus was hugging me and saying, 'Welcome back,' and, 'I love you.'"

The teenager sobbed. "I just felt this immense love for Him," she said.

She wasn't alone in the feeling: "We met in small groups after and we were all like, 'What was that?' I went home and I was like, 'I want to go to church.'"

Kylie started her junior year of high school wearing a brown scapular around her neck, a religious pendant that shows devotion. She chose more modest clothes, cleaned up her language and talked openly about Jesus.

She started reading the Bible and attending Mass. She said she lost some friends, but was "blessed with new ones."

When she met two Franciscan nuns her mother had befriended, it "sparked a curiosity" about religious life: "At first, it was just like, 'I want to be friends with nuns.' But then it was like, 'They're really interesting.'"

Hello, sisters
Kylie turned to internet forums and chat rooms to ask about sisters' lives, the history of habits and the difference between nuns and sisters. She friended women religious and other young discerners on Facebook and chatted about "the most random things."

Her research taught her "it's really not about what you want; it's about what God wants," she said. "You have to open your heart and your soul, no matter how scary it can be."

Kylie has already visited two religious orders and finds herself attracted to more traditional orders, whose members "get to wear their 'wedding gown' [religious habit] every day," she said. "I think that's beautiful."

As she thinks about a vocation to religious life, she believes God "wants me to be more contemplative. I think I belong in a good solid community where we do a lot of things together. It's just a huge blessing that He's calling me to discern [at all]."

At first, Kylie hid her thoughts of a vocation from her parents and others "like it was my biggest secret." But she now sees it as a "great tool for evangelization. Some people don't even think [nuns] exist anymore."

The teen passes out rosaries, miraculous medals and information about religious devotions with a "street evangelization" group in Glens Falls and goes to confession and adoration regularly.

Devoted to God
On Sundays, she attends St. Ann's parish in Fort Ann or Our Lady of Hope in Whitehall, then a Tridentine (Latin) Mass about 75 miles south in Troy. She considers the Latin Mass more reverent, though "both the Masses are amazing and beautiful and so special, and I wouldn't want to give up one for the other."

Kylie confirmed the idea that many young Catholics are drawn to conservative practices: "We crave that really deep spirit that's in the traditional Church. Some of the faith that our parents have passed down to us is not as solid."

Rev. Rendell Torres, the new pastor at the Whitehall and Fort Ann parishes and Kylie's spiritual director, follows the style she favors.

"I remember, the first time I walked into his Mass, [noticing] how carefully he held the host," she said. "I was crying during consecration. It's very inspiring to see someone who's young and on fire and traditional."

Kylie supports herself through babysitting and a job at Price Chopper. She wants to earn a degree before entering a community and has considered teaching or mission work.

Sometimes she wonders if she's too young to be a sister, "but then I think of St. Therese [of Lisieux], who was 15" when she entered religious life.

"I'm just saying to God, 'Whatever you want me to do,'" she said. Since becoming active in her faith, "I feel much happier. All the things that people look for in life - money, vanity, popularity - it doesn't really make you happy. I just find so much fulfillment [in knowing] that if you live your life for Him, He'll provide."

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