As you scan the arena, there are a number of important looking people sporting red staff shirts and headsets…And then there are those with headsets and no red staff shirts, because their uniform says it all: Don’t stand on your chair, no beach balls during Mass, and pass the baskets at the appropriate times.  Those are the religious sisters from the Carmelites of the Divine Heart of Jesus and the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George.

Some people may know Sr. M. Karolyn, one of the “Martyrs” from her days of teaching high school near Kansas City, others may remember her epic lip sync battle with Fr. Brian Fallon at GenLife2017. She is excited to be at her lucky 13th Steubenville Youth Conference and this weekend you might see her ushering in section CCC (No, not Catechism of the Catholic Church, although she is a nerd when it comes to the Catechism!).

Growing up in Rhode Island, she attended Steubenville East back when it was held in a tent. It was her first conference she attended as a teen where she had the courage to stand up and admit to 2000 of her closest friends that she was open to the possibility of being a sister.

Now things are full circle as she serves as the vocation director for her community and walks with young people as they wrestle with the deep questions of life and seek to find and do the will of God. Her hero is Pope St. John Paul II (KAROL Wojtyla…get it?) who constantly reminded young people: DO NOT BE AFRAID. That message was as relevant back when he said it to her (and a bunch of other people) during his addresses to youth as it is today, and even as it was when Jesus said it 2000 years ago.

As a musician herself, her favorite part of the conference is learning the latest worship songs that move hearts to a deeper encounter with Jesus.

She wants the attendees to “put out into the deep” in prayer and give the Lord permission to do what he needs to do to make them free and fully alive. It’s a journey worth taking.

Her advice for after the conference includes being courageous in taking the “next right steps” in following the Lord. Grow in prayer, surround yourself with good people who love Jesus and want to be saints, and live those words of JPII: BE NOT AFRAID.”

For any young woman at the conference who might be feeling the tug to open herself to the call from God, she recommends growing in prayer and spending time with Jesus, letting him love every part of her heart, and trusting first in his merciful love. Be the best daughter and sister you can be now so that when you are called to give yourself in love as a bride (either in religious life or marriage), you will be able to make an authentic gift of self.

Written by Stephanie To
Stephanie To works for the Respect Life Apostolate for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. A lawyer and bioethicist by training, she is passionate about the Catholic faith and pro-life issues. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys making music (playing the violin, playing the handbells, and singing), cheering on the St. Louis Cardinals and KU Jayhawks, and hanging out with friends. You can follow her on Twitter at @stephaniehto.