Audrey Ouellette is a campus minster at the University of Maine in Orono and was part of my small group at SLS16.

Thank you for giving me your time today!  Could you tell us a little bit about your story and your encounter with Jesus Christ?

I was very involved in high school youth ministry as a youth leader when I served on a board called the Maine Diocesan Council for Catholic Youth.  I was one of sixteen high school students in our state that organized three or four large events that were statewide conferences and retreats for high school students.  When I graduated, I went to college at a state school in New York.  We had a Newman center there, but there was not much involvement at all.  As far as college students that would go, I think I was one of three that attended weekly meetings.  During that time, I went on a really awesome retreat at a monastery that only two of us ended up going to.  It was a really beautiful and intense personal journey because weren’t any group dynamics.

I remember that we had some free time during one of the days and a storm was coming.  I loved to climb trees and there was a massive tree with the first branch maybe ten feet up in the air.  I stacked a couple of plastic chairs precariously on top of each other just to get on to the first branch.  Then I climbed up maybe 30 feet up in the tree.  The storm was coming, the tree was swaying and it was really beautiful.  I felt really close to God.

I graduated from college with a degree in dance, but I couldn’t find a job in dance so I started working with children with special needs.  I was supposed to be the teacher, but really I was learning from them.  It was a really beautiful experience and they were beautiful little people.  Each one was so unique, generous, creative and so uninhibited.

I did that for six years and then recently moved to the Bangor area in Maine which is near the University of Maine.  A position opened up as a campus minister and I have been doing that part-time for only about five months.  I’m still learning what I am supposed to be doing especially since about a month after I was hired our chaplain had to take medical leave and he hasn’t been back yet.  It has been just me as a part-time campus minister and my FOCUS missionaries keeping everything going and figuring things out.  We show up, we love Jesus and the rest will come!

What are some of the activities you have going on campus?

Every Wednesday night we have a free supper for college students and usually thirty to forty students come.  My role is to cook for all the students and I get a lot of students who want to help cook. I gladly welcome their help!  I say, “Come on in! Make a salad or some garlic bread.”  Just getting to know my students that way has been really beautiful. It is wonderful to have something to work on while talking about our faith, life, classes, etc.

We have Mass Sunday mornings as well but after the 6:15 pm Mass on Sundays, we have a soup or chili night which is followed by hour long men’s and women’s groups.  Then we come together and do night prayer.  After all this – for those up for it – there is a restaurant called Governors which is very famous for its pies.  I haven’t been yet, but I’m very excited to go to “Pie Night” this coming semester!

In addition, my FOCUS missionaries have Bible studies and some of my students have Bible studies.  I am just learning how to lead all of these things, but I’m getting there!

What are some of the tools you’ve picked up here at SLS that you’re excited to bring back to Maine?

I’m really excited about Lectio Divina because I did that for the first time at that monastery.  I got to talk with Sister Bethany Madonna yesterday about it and that was really powerful.  I think Lectio Divina is a really accessible way to meet people where they are at.  I also started learning today about the Bible studies that FOCUS has on their app which look really cool.

If you could sum it up, for someone in a similar position working with campus students, what advice and tools would you give them?

I definitely you need to have a sense of humor and flexibility.  And I’d offer my favorite scripture quote is Luke 18:1, when Jesus told a parable about the need to pray always and never to lose heart.

I’m really interested in the Maine Diocesan Board you were part of, could you tell me a bit more about that?

I was just talking with one of my students who graduated and is now a freshman at University of Maine.  She too was involved with it in high school.  I thought it had kind of fizzled out, but she said it has started up again and was there all through her high school years.

I was basically part of a volunteer high school team that organized high school events for evangelization and bringing people to Christ.  There were sixteen of us and we were separated by region.  There was a massive northern region and then three smaller regions with more population.  Each year, we would set up two regional conferences in our area and then two state wide conferences.  Other than the planning, we led ice-breakers, introduced speakers, etc. Planning-wise, we would meet monthly for a weekend long planning session and work things out.

Did you see much fruit from it?  Did a lot of high school Catholics in the area attend?

We did.  I think the regional conferences had maybe 100 students at a time, but the state-wide conferences were 400-500 students which I think is pretty good for Maine population standards.

Personally, I went to World Youth Day with several of the people in my leadership community the year we were graduating High School and I still keep in touch with those who are still active in their faith.  It had a big impact!

Thank you and God bless your work!