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by Lauren Deal, Director of Constituent Relations

You can read this article, and others, in our fall edition of the 2023 de Sales Sheet magazine

Many of our students attribute their journeys to spirituality to a common scenario: they hear a calling. “A calling” is a deeply personal and often spiritual experience. It’s that inner voice, that nagging feeling, or that overwhelming sense of purpose that propels individuals to pursue a particular path or undertake a specific mission. Callings can manifest in various ways – through a religious experience, a personal revelation, or a strong desire to make a positive impact on the world. We spoke with two of our recent alumni who have listened and pursued a calling that led them to a life invested in faith.

Amanda Herrold (2018) shared that when she came to school; she had a mindset that God didn’t love her. Like so many entering the middle school years, there were feelings of confusion, insecurity, and dislike for one’s self. Middle school woes coupled with her diagnosis of profound scoliosis that required surgery took a toll on both her physical and spiritual health. But what struck her around the same time was how caring and compassionate every teacher was at Mount de Sales. Every student is required to take a religion class in middle school; then the curriculum shifts to theology courses in high school. Amanda was introduced to an array of theology classes that both challenged and strengthened her faith. She took an art class in Theology that she admitted was the most fun. There was also Faith and Reasoning incorporating St. Thomas Aquinas and his five proofs of God’s existence explained in great detail.

Amanda also had an independent study based on the work and lectures given by St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. “When I was learning more about what the church teaches in regard to the dignity of the human person I latched onto it and from that, it eventually became the focus of my studies at Mercer. It was inspiring to learn what the church taught about the human person; that they have dignity, that they matter,” Amanda said. She had an epiphany at sixteen that God loved her.

Amanda’s plans to utilize her Theology degree in a potentially non-traditional way, whether as a spiritual director or counselor. Teaching is always something she’s drawn to as well!

In speaking with our alumni, a common theme was shared in both stories: the impact our teachers have on the students at MDS. What we’ve learned students remember most are the relationships they build with their mentors during their time at MDS. Amanda stopped in to see Mrs. Liza Sumowski when she was on campus towards the end of last year. “I was super impressed with her,” Mrs. Sumowski stated. “She seemed so mature and confident. Her eighth-grade year was tough. She missed some school due to surgery. I was excited to see her and to see her doing so well.”

Kevin Braski’s (2014) spiritual journey was foundational to his current position. He is currently studying to be a priest and is in his sixth year in seminary at Notre Dame in New Orleans. When Kevin was eight years old, his father Pat commented after Mass one Sunday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, “Wouldn’t that be cool if I one day called you father?” That statement affirmed a calling to the priesthood that Kevin was already feeling. His father went on further to say to the rector of the seminary, “Kevin’s a gift and it’s my job to get him back to his Father.”

Kevin attended Sacred Heart Catholic School and continued his Catholic education at Mount de Sales Academy. Sacred Heart encouraged him to live his faith, and he was inspired by Mount de Sales teachers who genuinely enjoyed teaching. “MDS cares about its students. Teachers knew where to draw the lines too; you had to work hard and study hard to make good grades in classes,” Kevin said. He participated in youth group and football while at MDS which reinforced the community aspect he would lean on during an unexpectedly difficult time for his family. While in high school, one of Kevin’s four sisters was diagnosed with a brain tumor that resulted in several visits to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, which tested his faith. Kevin credits David Held with providing support, as he checked in with Kevin throughout his year during his sister’s brush with death. “Mr. Held emailed me to say that he was there whenever I needed anything.”

Kevin recently returned from Portugal’s World Youth Day where he and other Mount de Sales alumni from Sacred Heart’s congregation, joined 1.5 million people in attending Mass together. The students enjoyed connecting with other Catholics from around the world, where they traded country flags, pins, and even wooden shoes from Holland. He shared several key takeaways from Pope Francis’ homily:

  • The only time you should be looking down at someone is when you’re pulling them up.
  • Look up and follow Jesus; He doesn’t go away.
  • From Pope John Paul II, it was reiterated, “Do not be afraid. Do not settle for mediocrity. Jesus’ greatness comes from us following Him.”

Kevin Braski will have his diaconate ordination at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Macon on June 15, 2024 at 10:00 AM. All are invited to attend and celebrate with Kevin and the Catholic community.