Almost 10 years ago I met a man who would change my life instantly. It started with my grandmother telling me about the amazing new priest at our church in Savannah. She said he was young and vibrant and 'just the best homilist you'll hear.' So on one of my trips home from college, I attended Saturday Mass with my grandma and was pleased to see the new kid in town, Fr. Tim. We spoke after Mass and with the Holy Spirit swirling around us, forged a friendship that has impacted my life in ways I can't begin to articulate. At the time, I was a UGA student, involved in our Catholic Center and running around campus, involved in entirely too many actitivies. But when Padre Tim, as we lovingly refer to him, suggested starting a small group of young gals, I jumped at the chance. Female friendships and fellowship have always nurtured and enriched me in ways that most other things can't. Throw in a focus on God and growing in our Christian lives and I was in.
Armed with materials and counsel from Father Tim, we became Team Athens, a group of gals that Fr. Tim has either coached or taught or mentored in his years in Augusta, Macon and beyond. Over the years we grew by inviting friends and freshman at the Catholic Center looking for a niche. Team A continued for many years but one year stands out the most for me.
If you've ever been to Athens, a town favorite is Five Points Deli. The Sweet Tea will have you needing insulin and the chicken salad is famous. So, whatever year this was, maybe 2003?, Team A re-started again and decided to meet at Five Points Deli every Tuesday morning for breakfast at 7 AM. And every Tuesday, I joyfully started my day with a Lemon Bar, Sweet Tea, my Bible, and some pretty awesome women. Admittedly, we spent the first minutes still waking up, and then had to start with updates on boys or classes (mostly boys). But eventually, we'd dive into whatever scripture was teaching us that day. We'd crowd in the corner near the fountain drink machine, pull tables together, and share our hearts right there in 5 points Deli.
We had a core group for years and continued to pray for the girls who just stayed with us for a semester. Regardless of who showed up at the Deli or the Catholic Center or wherever we met, it was such rich time. It was with these girls that I made my 'must have' list of my prospective husband (I ignored this list for many years but thankfully began using it again. It paid off.) It was with these girls that I shared my many highs and many lows of 20 something life. It was with these girls that I prayed and played, laughed and loved.
Last night, we had a small reunion. We missed Steph and Genevieve, Nicole, Alison and Caroline and the others who we so love but we celebrated getting 5 of us in the same place for dinner.
And all the reasons that I love them so much came flooding back. The beautiful mixture of silly girl conversation and deeper, real life stuff made me nostalgic for Athens and those early mornings worshipping together. We talked about weddings and bosses and crime in Atlanta. We talked about babies and Athens and boys and jobs. We laughed non-stop. And I left there singing at the top of my lungs, feeling joy that sometimes stays a little under the surface.
I don't know what was going through Father Tim's mind when he brought this group together. I'm sure didn't know he was putting this group in the hands of THE most disorganized, emotionally challenged Catholic girl in Athens. I'm sure he didn't know that sometimes we read scripture and STILL only managed to talk about boys. But I'm also sure he didn't know that this group would sustain me as I struggled through some terrible times. He didn't know that together we strengthened each other through illnesses, bad relationships, depression, family problems. He didn't know that we would all come to know Christ so much more intimately because of each other.
So, Padre, thank you for your priestly and incredible vision. Thank you for being crazy enough to trust that I could strong arm these ladies into coming each week. Thank you for giving me a pass when I too often gave this group less than 100%. Thank you for shepherding me through some very tough times. Thank you for the women who for many years, and again last night, made me laugh until my stomach hurt. And Thank you for celebrating my wedding Mass in September. I couldn't be more priviledged to know such a good man.
And so, in honor of Father Tim and his vision, and in thanksgiving for the work he does in the Diocese of Savannah, a prayer:
Oh God hear my prayer, and let my cry come unto you.
Bless our diocese of Savannah with many priestly and religious vocations.
Give the men and women you call the light to understand your gift,
and the love to follow always in the footsteps of your priestly son.