A JY Now and Forever
An article on Fulltimer Teema Thomas, from the official magazine of the Archdiocese of Melbourne.
At the leading edge of youth ministry
Written by Catherine Sheehan
Sunday, 16 May 2010 00:00
Volume 21, Issue 8
“Why was all this happening?” 23-year-old Teema Thomas remembers asking the Lord when she was diagnosed with cancer last year. She had just completed her missionary training with the Jesus Youth movement and was preparing for a big year of missionary work abroad. Why would the Lord send her this trial now? She remembers that, as she prayed to understand the Lord’s will, she sensed Him telling her “even gold has to be tested in fire”.
Teema first became involved with Jesus Youth (JY) when she was about 13. She grew up in a Catholic family in New Jersey, in the US, but found that her faith deepened when she joined the movement, whose young members seek to evangelise other young people through a lifestyle centered on Christ, a wide network of prayer groups and various types of outreach. Teema was invited by a friend to join a JY prayer group and found that her faith truly started forming and that she began to develop a personal relationship with Christ.
After finishing school, Teema went to university to study biology and management. During her time there her faith suffered as she was separated from her JY family. As she puts it, she “fell into the ways of the world”. However, she knew something was missing as she had “tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord” and losing the closeness with Him caused an emptiness in her heart.
When she finished her degree she accepted a job in New York City and moved back home with her family. Teema believes the Lord knew exactly what she needed and drew her back into His embrace. She returned to the sacraments and personal prayer and became involved again with JY. Her spiritual life deepened once more.
At this time Teema began discerning whether she should undertake a year of missionary work with JY. The movement offers training, conducted in Thailand, to university graduates and then places them in different countries for a year to evangelise and spread the JY ministry. After much prayer and encouragement from her parents, siblings and her JY family she made the decision to go. In June 2009 she began her ‘full-timer-ship’ in Thailand with 29 others from 13 different countries. Teema remembers the traineeship as one of the best times of her life.
The 30-day training course includes daily Mass and adoration, learning Church teaching, the Bible, discipleship and evangelisation. Teema describes it as a time of self-realisation. The trainees, or JY fulltime volunteers, as they are known, learn about incorporating the cultural aspects of different countries into their evangelisation and missionary work.
After her training Teema returned to the US and was suddenly diagnosed with thyroid cancer in early September last year. Though it was a shock, she believes the Lord had prepared her for that moment through the JY training, which had strengthened her faith. The trial brought her still closer to the Lord. She considers it now as “a beautiful time of prayer and preparation”. She underwent radiotherapy and surgery at the end of September. She is now completely free of cancer. “It was only because of me knowing the Lord that I was able to get through that time.”
She felt His presence with her during those days and now considers it as a time of purification. She learned to cling to the Lord: “Everything we have is a gift from Him. All that we have should be given back to Him. We are nothing without the Lord.”
For her year of missionary work Teema will spend six months in Australia and six months in the US. She arrived in Melbourne in March and she has been helping out with the JY ministry in Melbourne, including a weekly prayer group at St Francis’ in the city.
Here in Australia, Teema hopes to carry out her work of evangelisation through meeting youth one-on-one, and initiating prayer groups, new ministries and activities. Her aim is to build a ‘community of prayer’.
Teema is also a singer and is involved with JY’s music ministry. When she developed thyroid cancer she feared her singing voice would be affected. However, she says her range has become “a little lower” but otherwise her voice has remained perfectly intact.
Teema’s greatest fear is to go away from the Lord and she hopes to cling to Him always and give His love to others: “Once I’ve witnessed Christ I want to bring this joy and happiness to others, to be a witness to Him in my daily life.”
Upon completing her year of missionary work Teema plans to return home to the US and look for a job. She will always be a part of the JY family. “First and foremost I am a child of God and a Catholic. I’m so happy to be part of the Catholic family. Jesus Youth is who I am and will always be.”
Article taken from Kairos:
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