“How do we achieve restoration in the Church, in families, in the priesthood and religious life?” As the waves of secularism continue to crash against Catholics across the globe, young college students, like Claire Guernsey, are asking this question and working to find answers — beginning with evangelizing to today’s youth. Guernsey is in the midst of a yearlong pause from her academic studies, using her Christendom background and passion for spreading the Faith to begin “restoring all things in Christ” in the once great Catholic country of Ireland.
Guernsey, a native of Ave Maria, Florida, was preparing to begin her senior year at Christendom when she made the decision to take a year off and move to Ireland to serve as a missionary — a decision that had been years in the making, according to Guernsey.
“During the Easter Triduum my freshman year, I received a period of deep spiritual consolation and a huge outpouring of the Holy Spirit during Holy Thursday Mass,” says Guernsey. “I had a profound experience of the love of God and a zeal to share that love with others. I started praying a lot about how the Lord wanted me to live out the Gospel and to be a light to others. In prayer I had this understanding that Jesus was calling me to work for the restoration of the Church. I had this push to go out.”
As her college years continued, Guernsey served as both an RA and as a counselor for the college’s Best Week Ever high school summer program. Both experiences gave her the opportunity to be a light to others, but she still felt the desire to do even more. Eventually, she met up with a close friend who was serving with NET Ministries Ireland, an evangelization mission group that goes into schools and parishes to give retreats, run youth groups, bible studies, and more to intentionally disciple young people.
The friend encouraged Guernsey to apply to be a missionary — an idea she initially thought was out of the question, considering she would have to forego graduating with her class and take a year off from studies. As time went on, however, she began to feel it was her calling to go off and do this and not wait till after graduation.
“Letting go of a year of school, of graduating with my class, of the difficulties of coming back to studies after a year, was difficult and scary,” recalls Guernsey. “But through Scripture and lots of prayer, I was given the grace to fully embrace this unique call to mission. I knew that I had a genuine call and that I would regret not immediately leaving my nets and following Christ.”
Since arriving in Ireland, Guernsey has served with a team of five people in Co. Sligo, working closely with the bishop of the Elphin Diocese to accomplish their mission. Despite the lockdown in Ireland due to COVID-19, Guernsey and her team have still been able to reach the youth of Co. Sligo, both through retreats and through many forms of online ministry.
As a NET missionary, Guernsey has given talks, led small group discussions and youth groups, ministered to families in her local areas, and practiced a structured daily prayer life. Over the course of these past months, she has seen her work bear fruit, with young people drawing closer to Christ because of her and her team’s ministry. As she looks at her time in Ireland, Guernsey believes that her Christendom education uniquely prepared her for her current work.
“I’ve had so many opportunities at Christendom to develop leadership and rhetorical skills, and because of that I have been able to put those gifts at the service of my team as a Co-Team Leader and as Music Leader,” says Guernsey. “The philosophical and theological formation I received from Christendom has also helped me understand the natural progression that takes place in retreats and when you’re walking with young people on a consistent basis. When we put together a retreat for a school, I’ve found my writing and analytical skills very helpful as well.”
Guernsey will be back in the United States this coming summer, where she will once again serve as a Best Week Ever counselor before embarking on her final year of study at Christendom, with the plan of graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature. Leaving Christendom for a year was a difficult choice, but doing so to begin “restoring all things in Christ” right now has ultimately become one of the best decisions of her life.
Looking further ahead, Guernsey sees more work in youth evangelization in her future — a career field she encourages other students and alumni to explore as well.
“I think youth evangelisation is one of the most important apostolates right now, because the youth are the future of our Church,” concludes Guernsey. “If we want to see restoration in the Church, in families, in the priesthood and religious life, then we need the youth to want to live out holy vocations. I think there’s also a great need for young people to have a community in which they can talk about the Faith in a personal way and develop a personal relationship with Jesus. Even when we’re living our normal lives, we can have the missionary disposition of heart which seeks to love and preach the Gospel at all times by example, and that is a truly beautiful thing.”