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What’s Molly been doing since winning our 2010 essay contest?

By Mary Gates

What’s Molly been doing since winning our 2010 essay contest?

Still Talking About Jesus

“How do I talk to my friends about Jesus?” Molly Cook answered this question in 2010 as a senior in high school, and appeared in FAITH Magazine as the Teen Issue essay contest winner for that year. She wrote then: “Youth group has helped me to realize that being a part of the Church is like being a part of a family or a community. The relationships I have gained from being a part of my church and youth group activities mean the world to me and have brought Jesus into my everyday life and conversations.”

Molly continues to bring Jesus into her everyday. Over the last seven years, God has continued to provide opportunities for Molly to experience her faith through communities and relationships that draw her closer to God’s people and his love. FAITH caught up with Molly to see how the Lord has been at work in her, and what she would tell her 2010 teenage self about life, faith, community and the Church.

“The way that I have experienced the constant presence of Jesus is through people. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people. I mentioned in 2010 that the Diocesan Youth Leadership Camp (DYLC) was life-changing. I’ve been amazed at the impact it has continued to have in the years since I went. I still think about it all the time. In fact, my roommate for three years at college was someone I had met through DYLC. People I had those experiences with in high school remain dear friends. We even served in various ministries at Aquinas College together,” she said.

In her time at Aquinas College, Molly’s faith grew through experiences of working in ministry, as well as experiences of being ministered to. “I was introduced to spiritual direction in college and that influence has been one more example of the way I experience God through people. Because of that, I look to how people have evangelized to me so that I can evangelize to others. The greatest gift people have given me has been their presence, so I work to be present to others. I try to hear, to listen and also to pray that I’m open to being present in whatever capacity I’m called to be.”

After college, Molly participated in a year of service with Christ the King Service Corps, a group affiliated with the Catholic Volunteer Network. Throughout that year, God continued to bless her willingness to live as a witness to his love. “That year of service in Detroit was a transformative experience. We lived in community, made $100 a month and focused on service, simplicity and faith. I saw the beauty of working together and being in community. And since then, I’ve desired that. That’s where I most feel Jesus is present.

“In August of 2016, I started graduate school at the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development at Illinois State University, and am pursuing a master’s in sociology with a focus on community development. My graduate school experience is unique because faith is not formally a part of it, but I’m intentionally learning about the good that people are doing in the world. And because it’s a part of me, my faith is a part of it.” Beyond coursework, Molly spent time as a teaching assistant, and is currently living in Montana for her graduate placement while she writes her thesis.

“As I look forward to finishing in June, I don’t know what God has planned, but I’m considering two possibilities. One is to start a coffee shop and employ people who are homeless. My research for my thesis involves finding out about social enterprises that employ those who are or were homeless, and it’s exciting to find out what is being done and to dream about what could be done. Another option for me is to pursue my Ph.D., with the intent to teach and incorporate service into the classroom. I’ve been blessed with great teachers, and I can see that as a path for myself as well,” she said.

While anticipating the future, Molly reflects on the past seven years with gratitude for God’s faithfulness and blessings: “In high school, I realized that I could experience God’s love through his people. And that reality has been affirmed over and over again. I’m really thankful that I grew up in DeWitt and in the Diocese of Lansing, and that I started there with a foundation of love, support and community. Home molded and shaped me and gave me a foundation that has remained.

“If I could tell my high school self anything, I’d say, ‘Don’t be so afraid. Fear doesn’t come from God. Try to talk to and be with as many people as you can. Everyone has a beautiful story to share – don’t be afraid to get to know God’s people.’”