God's Love

God's Love

Friday, May 6, 2016

What is Lay Consecrated Life?

Just checking in to update you on how the journey to Trinidad is going! A little over 6 months ago, I began fundraising to help with my student loans so that I could join Living Water Community as a consecrated woman. Thanks to generous sponsors, I have raised $37,665 towards my goal of paying off/covering as much of my $90,000 in student loan debt. This assistance will allow me to move to Trinidad to freely discern life as a lay consecrated missionary giving my life back to God.

So if you have been part of this process through prayer or financial assistance, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you! I keep you in my prayers daily.

So, all of that being said, what exactly does it mean to be a lay consecrated living in community with Living Water? It can sound a little confusing if you aren't familiar with the lingo, so here is a quick breakdown:

Living Water Community: A community formally recognized as a lay association of Christ Faithful
 that serves those in need throughout the Caribbean. The communities mission is "is to be in the world today a presence of God's unconditional love, mercy forgiveness healing and peace."*

Consecrated Woman A lay person who is consecrated to serve Jesus and the Catholic Church community by living the evangelical counsels (poverty, celibate chastity and obedience).**
Household Member - "means sharing life with others in the Community where everything is shared in common and lived as family, and “called to live a way of life that will lead them to holiness of charity through the observance of the evangelical counsels..."**

Hopefully this breakdown gives a little insight into what, God willing, I will be doing with my life!

*Taken from the Living Water Community Statutes

** Taken from the Living Water Community website

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Call to Love; A Call to Living Water

I have been accepted to join formation with Living Water Community to become a lay consecrated missionary in Trinidad!

Whew! For those of you who have heard me talk non-stop about this community for the last two years, this may not be a surprise but the process is officially on the move. I am so excited to get started on this new journey, but I have some standing commitments in the states that I need to work through first. For those of you who haven’t heard about Living Water, let me share a little of my story with you:

When I boarded the plane to Trinidad in May of 2013, I would have told you that my summer ministry immersion with Living Water Community was going to be a great experience, but most importantly that it was preparation for all that was coming next. It was a blip on my radar in between graduating college with my Bachelor Degree in Religious Studies and my year of service with FrancisCorp in Costa Rica. Though I had been discerning religious life, the life of a lay consecrated missionary was never what I had in mind. But our God is a God of surprises.

Household members of Living Water Community ~ Chapter 2015 

From very early on in my trip, living and working with community felt natural, felt like “home”. It was over the next two months that God slowly whispered into my heart. At first, my response to that tugging was I’ve barely known this community for a month, this must just be a ‘mission trip high’ to God, you cannot possibly be calling me to this community! WE HAD A PLAN! Despite my hesitancy, I began falling in love with the spirit, prayer and people of Living Water Community.

In retrospect, I can tell you the moment when I started to truly pray about the possibility of joining household. I was working in the food bank, packing food hampers to give to our clients and singing praise music with the woman in charge. They had just been telling me that I needed to come back and help for Christmas and it hit me – my trip was going to end. My only thought was I can’t imagine this not being my every day. God had brought me to this community and had opened my heart to His call without me even knowing it! There was no turning back after that moment and over the last two years, His call to live and serve in Living Water Community has been confirmed over and over.

Not only do I believe that this community has changed and will continue to change me, I believe that God gave me gifts and talents that I can offer them. During my time with community, I have been able to use my experience and background in education and religious studies by helping with youth and children prayer meetings, as well as helping with Vacation Bible School. My background in Spanish has allowed me to work with refugees from Spanish speaking countries that come to Living Water. Each of the ministries that I have been a part of during my short visits have shown me ways that I could be of service to the community.

So, what comes next? While I was in Trinidad in May of 2015, I met with the foundress and current Director of Community – Rhonda Maingot – and expressed my desire to enter formation to become a consecrated member living in household.  I have been accepted to begin formation in September 2016!

This is where I need your help! Becoming a missionary and moving to another country presents its challenges! There are 3 ways that I could use your help- Pray, Give, Share

 Pray  – While I am so excited to begin this new journey, I know that it will not be easy. It has never been easy to leave my family and friends while traveling and add in learning to live in community and assimilating to a new culture, I can use all the prayers I can get. I also have a lot of work to do so that I am able to join community in September, so I ask that you please keep me in your prayers as I embark on this journey.

            Give - I am extremely grateful for the Catholic education I received at the University of Dayton and would never have landed where I am without my time at UD, but it has left me with student loans. To begin my formation and join community, I must be free of any financial obligation or debt, including student loans. I will be committing to communal poverty, I will not receive a salary and will rely on the community to meet my basic needs which means that I will not have the means to continue paying off debt once in community. My current debt is $96,000 in both private and federal student loans. It seems like an impossible amount, but I truly believe that God has placed it on my heart to join this community and will provide in big ways.

That being said I need your help! If you would prayerful considering

There are 3 ways that you can donate:
Online for non-family members you can go to Joy to the World Foundation to donate. This foundation is able to give you a donation receipt so you can claim your charitable donation on your taxes. This money is sent to my account with the foundation and then at the close of my account will directly be paid to my loans.

            Online for family – due to the nature of the fund above, family members are unable to receive a charitable tax deduction. If you would like to give, you can go to this gofundme.com/h686pnkk. This fund is linked directly to a separate bank account specifically for this fundraiser. It will then be disbursed to my loans on a monthly basis.

            By snail mail – if you would like to help out, but would rather meet with me personally or send your donation through snail mail, it can be sent to the following address:
Joy to the World – Tax deductible/non-family
Joy to the World Foundation
c/o Cassandra Schemmel Benevolence Fund
5550 Tech Center Drive Suite 305
Colorado Springs CO 80919

       Share my story – If you know someone who might be interested in my story, please feel free to share it with them! I believe that this is the perfect time for sharing with young people that there are many ways to serve God, you just have to tune in to the still small voice. If you know someone who might be interested in supporting my fundraiser or a business that would like to become a sponsor, please let me know and feel free to share this blog with them!

I want to thank all of you, because without the support and prayer that you have gifted me with thus far, I would never be where I am. It is through the constant encouragement of family and friends that the little girl who used to play Mass with her siblings and stuffed animals is now moving forward to become a consecrated women serving God’s people.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


“Fearlessness is not the absence of fear. It's the mastery of fear. It's about getting up one more time than we fall down.” Arianna Huffington

As I sat in Trinidad, ringing in the New Year in my favorite fashion (hint: we celebrate it every Sunday), the priest gave a homily about this newborn year that we held in front of us. He urged us to look at this “newborn” and to give it a name that expressed all we hoped for its life. Preoccupied as I was with leaving Trinidad, with questions of when, how and why I would go back, I named my year Fearless.

I decided that I wanted to live my life without fear…even if it was for just a year. My understanding of what that meant was fairly shallow, mainly focused on the fear and sadness I felt leaving a place that has become like home. I wanted to name the year Return – to focus on getting back to Trinidad. I wanted to name my year Home – to take with me the parts that made Trinidad home to me.  But as I prayed, the Spirit opened a different word to me – Fearless

To live without being afraid of the movements of the Spirit.
To not be afraid of where God might call me in my future.
To be courageous despite not knowing the plan.
To face the fears and anxieties that hold me back, acknowledge them and then overcome them.

Basically, I wanted to take life by the horns and live it well. Moving and flowing with the river of the Spirit that I felt running through me. At one point, that meant recognizing a fear that Trinidad might not be where I’m called. At another, that meant recognizing my fear of failure and trying something new at work. It meant listening to Christ. But even at that, my idea of a Year of Fearlessness was limited.

Today at work, I encountered a different type of fear. There are these two boys at work, we’ll call them Mark and Evan. Well, these boys have stolen my heart. Every day when I walk into Casa Cuna, Evan yells my name and runs to me. “Catsi, Catsi!”, buries his head into my legs in a tight embrace and I bend down for a kiss. His brother, Mark, does the same when I run into the room. Despite him yelling or kicking when he’s mad, this boy is love. He’ll snuggle in my lap, climb on my back to give me a kiss and is the first to say goodbye at the end of the day. These kids are my daily conversion to love more and harder and are my sunshine all at the same time.

They’re leaving us.

We don’t know a lot of information, just that they are leaving soon. It’s happened before that kids leave with little notice, or that we come to work one day and they’re gone. But hearing that my two little angelitos, who I’ve watched grow up so much, were going away. Where are they going? How are they going to grow up? Will they see their mom again? What will happen to them? I was afraid for their mom, who had already had two children die. What will she do without them? Where is she going? How is she going to handle this? As my ministry has turned me outwards, the opportunities to let fear take over have grown infinitely – in the plight of people who I don’t even know.  This is how God transformed my Year of Fearlessness, by turning it away from me and towards something greater. Away from me and towards my brother and sister, for whom He has commanded me to become their keeper.

So what is my courage here? How do I overcome the fear? I overcome through prayer and through faith. Faith that the same Jesus Christ who gives me courage to overcome my internal fears, gives me confidence that all will be okay. The same Christ who died on the cross for my sake, died for the sake of these three beautiful people. I have faith that as we pray for Mark, Evan and their mom, God the Father will watch over and guide them. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have questions or fears, not even close. I’ve cried three times while writing this. It means that as I think about it, I name the fear and remind myself that God is bigger. When fear beings to overwhelm me, I run into the arms of Jesus and pray.

The only way I can truly live fearlessly, is by allowing the One who conquered fear and death to be in charge. So join me in prayer and take heart with God we will nothing stops us.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Simplicity of Joy and the Beauty of Saying Goodbye

 I have learned that giving pieces of your heart away never limits how much you can love, but instead increases it. The pain that you feel is not heart break; it’s what happens when your heart is full.

I don’t often talk about my daily life for work, because for me it is rather … well, daily. But this week, as I refocused my energy, the uniqueness of what I do every day was unfurled. It’s not so much that caring for babies in Costa Rica is any different than taking care of children in the U.S., but more the perspective that I brought to the job. As I refocused myself, I realized two beautiful parts of my day that I hadn’t quite tapped into before – the simple things that bring forth joy and the beauty of hellos and goodbyes.

First things first – joy. It’s amazing what can spark joy in a little child. The instant I walk into work every day, I visit the halls to say hello to all the different kids. As Lauren and I walk in, the kids yell our names and run towards us. They are joyful that their playmates have come. As I feed the kids their lunch, they smile and giggle as I make silly noises. They are joyful just because someone is taking the time to give them attention. As their moms come to pick them up for merienda, lunch and to go home, I see the kid’s faces light up as the get hugged up by their mom. They are joyful because they have hugs and love. It doesn’t matter the situation – a toy, juice, a song – these kids are joyful. It is my favorite part about going to work every morning, is just the fact that every simple thing brings a smile to their faces. I think it is also a lesson we need to learn. Joy doesn’t have to be a complicated mess of making yourself joyful. It’s as easy as looking at some things with the eyes of a child. I’m learning slowly through my work at La Posada that by celebrating the little things – baby snuggles, hugs, jokes with the moms, community – as little rays of sunshine, joy comes so much easier.

This little girl is just full of joy! The two girls in the foreground are fighting, and she's all smiles!
Now, work isn’t always a joyful affair. Girls leave La Posada for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes they get in trouble and are asked to leave, sometimes they turn 18 and leave, sometimes they are able to return to their parents. Sometimes they run away and sometimes they know they are leaving for days. People keep telling me that after so many goodbyes you get used to it. I’m not sure that’s true. I love each of these kids and their moms with everything that I have to give them, as I try to with most people, which means that every time I say goodbye a little part of my heart goes with them. That being said, we said goodbye to one of the moms and two little girls that I’m truly fond of. It was in saying goodbye that I got to truly appreciate the time I spent with those girls. They will always be in my prayers and my heart, but I truly got to appreciate the gifts that they gave me.

And in saying goodbye, there is room for more girls at Posada.  It’s hard to say goodbye, but seeing that new girls get to come is beautiful. Posada offers something unique to the girls that isn’t offered in the other homes throughout Costa Rica. They offer a place for both the mothers and their children to grow in an environment that is directly oriented to their needs. As much as I might get frustrated with my work some days, it’s amazing to keep that in mind. While some occasions when the girls leave are less then desirable, there is always the silver lining of welcoming new people. It’s a lesson I’m learning over and over, the relationship that ends when saying goodbye opens up room for new life to be given. I’ve learned that giving pieces of your heart away never limits how much you can love, but instead increases it. The pain that you feel is not heart break; it’s what happens when your heart is full.

Saying goodbye to my two girls. Love, tears and hugs

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Just Because They Are

dig·ni·ty/ˈdignitē/ -- the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect

Today in Washington D.C., people from all over gather together to give voice to those whose very lives are threatened by abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty.  Even more importantly, they are marching for the recognition of something that cannot be taken away.


It is not something that is earned or that we as a human race can give. It is within each and every human being. Not because of who or why or how they are but just that they are. That they were created and given life. That the divine that is in you and I resides in every person. It doesn’t matter who they are – whether the person is a small but growing fetus or someone dying in a hospital or someone who committed an unthinkable crime. No matter the person, dignity is inherent. The March isn’t just about stopping something – it’s about recognizing why its worth stopping. Calling people to recognize this worth and come forth to defend it.

Though I’m not marching in D.C. this year, I march for life every day in Costa Rica. Hogar Posada de Belen (The Inn at Bethlehem) is a home for mothers, ages 13-18 years, and their children. It is a pro-life effort of the Episcopal Conference of Costa Rica to help aid mothers in choosing life. While the mothers live at the home, they also are given the opportunity to take classes, participate in extracurricular classes like dancing and music, as well as work experience like working in a restaurant or a beauty salon.

At work, we march for life every day. Like I said, dignity isn’t something you can give, but something that you can recognize and guard and that is what I feel we do with our niños. We honor their dignity by loving them with all we have to offer. Listening to their stories, telling them I love them every day (every few minutes really
J ),  affirming the good they do and even correcting them when they misbehave are ways that we show them that they are worth time, effort and love. When they do something wrong and are being punished I tell them I love them but what they did was not okay, hoping that the kids learn that their worth does not lie in their actions but in just being.

But being pro-life is more than just ensuring that the baby makes it out of the womb or even just building up the children who are in these challenging situations. Limiting the pro-life to just abortion changes the entire ideology of the movement. Womb to tomb, conception to death, whatever catch phrase you’d like to use, being pro-life is about recognizing that inherent dignity in every person that you encounter – and helping to create a system that values that life as well.

 Here at Posada, the pro-life initiative doesn’t stop when the baby is born. The mothers are brought in and given the support they need so that they can leave La Posada with a way to care and provide for themselves and their children. One of the things that I love about working at La Posada is that these girls are not merely their story. While some of their stories are heart-wrenching and definitely difficult, they are so much more than that. They are loved and cared for. They are part of a community. They are listened to and given opportunities. They discover their own worth as they learn to take care of their child, they discover their gifts and talents, and as they learn to love and respect the girls they live with. I believe that we “march for life” as we sit with these girls and hear their stories, as we walk with them on their journey of motherhood and of growth. It doesn’t matter what decisions led them to walk through the door at La Posada, they are worth it. For me, this has become part of my mission – Helping the girls to realize that they are worth it. Worth a better future. Worth good and holy love. Worth waiting for. Worthy of being swept off their feet. Just because they were brought into being and created. Just because the God who resides in you and I resides in them. Just because they are.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Discovering Christ in Christmas: A True Trini Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all who happen to read this.

I know that I have been neglecting my blog, but since Mono left my system and my energy came back, it has been nonstop! After being home sick for three weeks, I slowly reintegrated myself at work, took a trip to Nicaragua for Thanksgiving and then barely had time to breath before heading off to Trinidad for Christmas.

I have been asked multiple times “Was Trinidad everything that you hoped for?” I can’t even begin to answer that question! I was a flood of emotions leading up to my trip and had no idea what I hoped for. I was anxious about going back. I kept thinking what if it was too soon; maybe I had not had enough time to process. I thought maybe I had missed Trinidad so much I began to romanticize how I felt about it. Well, I was right to think that something had changed and honestly the trip was not how I'd expected it to be at all.

I was right to expect it to be different because I, had in fact, changed in the four months I was gone. Although, my time in Costa Rica has not been easy, it has been a time of growth. While I’m still very strongly extroverted, I have had to learn new ways of processing. My understanding of service has stretched and grown as I navigate my way through my work site. My understanding of community life has changed as I have lived my first few months with my Costa Rican housemates. The space from my previous experience in Trinidad had given me a chance to process what exactly had touched me so deeply.

That being said, despite having been to Trinidad and having processed a little bit of my experience, I was no more prepared for this experience than the first time. I remember packing and realizing I had no clue what to pack because all I knew was that we had a lot of work to do! Needless to say this trip was full of surprises and blessings.

The first surprise was finding out that “early morning” no longer meant 5:30 prayer in the chapel. For the week leading up to Christmas, early meant getting to the center at 4:30am to make breakfast before Aurora mass. Those Aurora Masses became one of the greatest parts of my Advent journey. Sitting in a dark chapel with only candles lighting the altar, looking onto the Laventille hills, and watching the sun rise over them as the Eucharist is consecrated before us. The insane symbolism of walking into a dark room, not knowing who was sitting beside you yet feeling a strong sense of community and safety and the symbolism of the sun rising and light coming to the chapel as the Light of the World becomes present in a physical way on the altar before us. That is powerful. It was a beautiful way to clear out the distraction that liturgy can bring along with it - especially for someone who is passionate about studying the liturgy – and recognize the Christ that came before me.

That was the beauty of Advent for me – removing the distraction and noise. For the first time, I truly celebrated Christmas. Being so far away from what I had always associated with Christmas was surreal. Instead of praying for snow and a “White Christmas”, I was seeing palm trees and sweating from the humidity. Instead of shopping for gifts, I was preparing goodie bags and food hampers for poor families. Instead of gathering with my friends and family to celebrate, I was gathering with my community to pray and to work. Without all of the distractions of what Christmas has become, my Advent journey became about one thing – focusing on opening my heart and preparing for the birth of the King of Kings. I can’t even begin to explain how blessed and wonderful that time was.

Another surprise, and blessing, was that even though I’d been gone for three months, it felt as though I had never left. It was amazing to be back with a community that I love and watch them live out their mission to serve joyfully. On Christmas Day, community members gather together to prepare and serve a lunch for 2500 people. It was amazing to watch everyone work to make such a big event happen on a day. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t just watching, I was able to help hand out gifts to all of the children that came through. :) I also got to spend time with the community outside of work and prayer, being part of the Boxing Day and Old Year’s festivities was also a great time. For a community that knows how to work, Living Water Community also knows how to have a good time! They truly have become a second family to me.

Many of you know that I could go on (and on and on) about Trinidad … so be warned if you choose to ask me in the future how my trip was. While it was a strange Christmas away from home, it could not have been blessed with greater people. To my Trini family who reads this, I’m so grateful for you welcoming me back with such love and allowing me to be part of that special time. I already miss you and cannot wait to come back. To my family and friends at home, I missed you and you all were in my prayers every day I was gone, but I’m so grateful for your support this last year. With 5 different trips, it was a big year and I couldn’t have done it without your encouragement and prayers. I cannot wait to see you all again as well!

Blessed, blessed New Year!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Frozen in Time

Just a warning: Seeing as I’ve been home sick almost a week and a half now, this is not a post about an exciting trip or a day at work. I just wanted to share something I’ve been reflecting on lately. Hope you enjoy

After deciding I needed some time out of the house (a.k.a. fatty food), I took a solo walk to McDonalds this Saturday. As I sat across the table from this family and their two little girls, we struck up a conversation. Every time I looked the youngest girl (7), I was reminded of my little sister despite the fact that the oldest (12) is closer in age. As I was reflecting on why, I realized Caitlynn was frozen in my mind. As I sat there, eating my deliciously awful McDonalds, I realized Caitlynn has grown up so much and is now much more like the twelve year old sitting in front of me. But in my mind, she is constantly stuck at the age where we spent the most time together and she will probably always be that little girl in my mind.

I realized that I was doing the same thing to myself. Having had a lot of time to myself this week, I started looking into my options for the future. Grad school. Job. Internship. Which direction do I go? As I began looking at grad schools, I realized I would love to go into Pastoral Ministry or Pastoral Counseling. Part of me is itching to go back to school. But as I started to look, I was flooded with just as much anxiety as I was excitement. I’ve never really been known for my studiousness or for that matter my punctuality. I chastised myself for even thinking that I had what it takes to go through 4 more years of schooling. Did I really think I have what it takes to do this? Now don’t get me wrong, I graduated with a decent GPA, but I definitely had my struggles and I’m sure exasperated a professor or two.

As I walked home from McDonalds, I put two and two together.  I didn’t just have a habit of freezing my loved ones; I had a habit of freezing myself. Unlike Caitlynn, I wasn’t frozen in a place where I was cute or felt settled. I was stuck in all the places where I had failed before, using them to prove that negative voice in my head right. Every time I thought about grad school, I looked back at the “Cassie” who had turned in papers late or waited till the last minute to do something. When I was stressed at work, I saw myself as the “Cassie” who was impatient and got frustrated at her roomates. I have this mental scrapbook of all of all my worst moments and I carry them around with me. I’m just waiting to prove to myself that I don’t have what it takes.

Who would want to do that - carry around all of their struggles and bad moments? I’d rather carry my backpack from Sophomore year of college. Trust me, that was not light. Just like Caitlynn, I’ve changed. I’ve used all those bad moments to grow up and learned from my mistakes. I know that there are still eight and a half million more things to work on, but they will come in time. I cannot let my fears and anxieties freeze me in time and give me an excuse to stop growing and challenging myself. The girl in that scrapbook isn’t necessarily the girl looking at me in the mirror.

So why share this reflection? Because, I don’t think I’m unique in this. I’m sure everyone carries a little scrapbook of his or her own and sits down to open it up every now and then. I’m not naïve enough to say to never open the scrapbook again. But I will say, remember to fill your scrapbook with triumphs and treasures as well as struggles. Remember that you grow and change and learn from all of those mistakes. And remember that sometimes it’s okay to prove yourself wrong. Be gentile.