For the last week, I was in Downtown St. Louis for the Catholic Media Conference hosted by the Catholic Press Association.
I met some of my favorite Catholic journalists whose work I’ve been following for years now. Two of my co-workers attended with me, making for a great way to gain professional development, personal development and just to network with fellow Catholic communicators.
Halfway through the conference, I started noticing more and more other young adults, leading me to figure out how to round up all of us together to meet and network. After some great feedback (shout out to Gaby, Vivian and Winetta!), I coordinated a young adult meet-up! We met for morning Mass, then had two (three, kinda) reserved tables during Sr. Helena Burn’s keynote luncheon. Meeting other Catholic young adults working in either Catholic Press or Catholic Communications was really edifying.
Towards the end of the conference, I spent more time with Winetta. She kept challenging me unexpectedly to answer questions: What do you want to do? Are you happy? What do you want to be an expert at? I found myself almost stuttering.
I felt like I should know the answers to those questions, and I do in a sense. I know where I am, and I know the steps God has guided me to take to get here. But sometimes the future is more foggy than it is clear, and in trust I walk in confidence.
The audience generally skewed older, as do many industries, but I was excited to meet so many well-established, career-oriented journalists and communicators.
I met Cindy Wooden, the Rome Bureau Chief Editor of the Catholic New Service. Daily she tells the story of one of the most famous men on the planet. I asked her if she’s doing what she’s always wanted, or what she’s always dreamed. She didn’t say yes, but she didn’t say no. It was a long process of short jobs, long hours, red-eye flights and even greater self-knowledge that led to Rome to be her home.
Her joy, even in simply meeting her, made me happy. I’m happy where I am, and I’m very thankful for that. But I know God is still challenging me to grow. I just pray that I can see where I’m going.
Winetta and I walked to the Gateway Arch on Friday evening before the final dinner banquet. It was raining a bit, but it didn’t faze us, we both had jackets.
In the shadow of the massive metal arch, we walked around the riverfront just talking. She asked me more questions, I tried to answer as best I could. I asked her the same questions.
Once, I heard her say, I don’t know.” For some reason, I found comfort in that. She’s the same age I am, we were actually really similar in many regards, it made us laugh a lot.
The next morning we had breakfast at Rooster, a restaurant I had tried earlier that week. I had this phenomenal mess of gravy, biscuit, sausage and eggs. She got the same dish. It couldn’t have been healthy, but I was happy. Her parents are Chinese, but from India. Her dad cooked curry, her mom simple Chinese dishes, but she craves Western food.
“I’m sick of curry, but I love big American breakfasts,” she told me. Happy with our restaurant choice, we tucked into our plates, asking more and more questions. She’s engaged to be married next month and I can tell she’s excited. She had that same glint in her eye that Esther had with Ivan. Sometimes I wish I could be at that point in my life too, but as I’ve learned, it’s at God’s pace.
It had stopped raining by the time we cleared our plates and we made our way back to the hotel several blocks back. I didn’t want the morning to end, I knew I had to check out of the hotel, grab my bags and hop on the MetroLink bound for Lambert. I suggested walking to see Busch Stadium, but she asked if I had enough time. I’ll make time I thought in my head, shrugging my shoulders and adjusting my schedule aloud. “I just have to catch the train by 11:45.”
The red seats of the Cardinals’ stadium looked like the red from my newspaper. A bit saturated, sometimes darker.
She asked me another question: “What do you want to be an expert in?” Echoing Condaleeza Rice’s challenge to one of the conference’s keynote speakers.
I said something about Snapchat, social media, using media to redeem. That is at the heart of my mission, but it wasn’t until I was on the plane bound for my Chicago transfer to Houston did I realize that I wanted to be an expert in BEING WITH people.
I realize that encompasses so many things, but if being with someone requires that I learn deeply about something so that I don’t walk alone, that I walk with someone, I pray God equips me with the gifts to do just that.