This year’s first Campus Celebrity has had a bit of a different college experience than most other collegiettes. Rather than going to Ambrose for four straight years before graduating, senior Mary Schechinger found a different calling during her first year here.
As a freshman, Mary attended a recruiting event put on by NET Ministries, a Catholic organization based in St. Paul, Minn. That experience turned out to be an “a-ha moment” for Mary.
“I remember thinking to myself ‘This is exactly what I want to be doing with my life. What the heck am I doing in college?’” she recalls.
However, she felt that she had committed to Ambrose and tried to put NET Ministries’ calling to the back of her mind. She participated in music ministry and Residence Life. Mary loved playing pranks and getting to know others. Organizing Live at the Lounge was work that Mary really enjoyed as well. She calls herself an “extreme extrovert.”
Yet, Mary still struggled with her desire to participate on the adventure NET Ministries had offered. When she realized she couldn’t put the calling behind her, she started changing her plans. Mary knew she wanted to have this experience before she graduated, and it took some convincing to get her parents on board. Eventually, she was able to complete the application and interview process, as well as fundraise $4,200 and Mary was on her way rather than completing her senior year at Ambrose.
The mission work that Mary was able to do with NET Ministries turned out to be much different than she had expected.
She explained that “In my head I was like ‘What could be better? 100 other people on fire for God, praise and worship music, and the Catholic church? Heck yes! This is going to be great!’ I expected to laugh and sing songs all day, then have awesome and deep late night conversations every night. I thought my teammates and I would be the best of friends and all the girls would be in my wedding party someday.”
That’s not quite how it worked, though. It “turns out that being on fire for God doesn’t mean everyone is at the same temperature or even on the same stove,” she described. Mary experienced many different theological perspectives, which was challenging in and of itself. It took a lot of praying and faith that she was on the right track.
The entire experience was a nine month mission trip. The group trained from mid-August to October, and then began to travel as a team.
“My team’s first stop was Pennsylvania, then West Virginia, Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, California, and then Texas again in that order. We gave retreats 6 days a week and had one day off a week to rest or have a team day usually on Mondays.”
Overall, Mary was a part of over 40 retreats that involved over 1,000 youth throughout the nation.
Mary’s favorite part of the trip was the prayer. “Praying is such a beautiful and intimate thing. It is powerful and it ties people together in unimaginable ways. I loved getting to teach people new ways to pray, ways that make you get real with God and just lay it all out there.”
Of course, there were negatives too. Her least favorite part was the food – although for a different reason than it tasted like Cosgrove cafeteria. Mary said that it seemed everyone though the group was starving, and so they ate all the time. “I now have a whole new appreciation for a hungry stomach.”
If this sounds interesting to you, or you are contemplating doing a similar mission, Mary advises, “Just do it and don’t have any expectations. Just say yes to the call and trust that the Lord will take care of everything you need. Discover the adventure instead of planning it.”
Now, Mary is back on campus as a senior. She is working for Residence Life as an RA in Hagen, as well as participating in the choir and working for The Buzz. As far as being back on campus goes, she is excited.
“I’m looking forward to the theology courses. I really missed learning from a professor when I was on the road. I’m looking forward to being in one spot and going to all my favorite places with friends.”
For those underclass collegiettes looking for advice, Mary wants you all to “learn how not to give a s*** about what anyone else thinks. You really limit yourself when you only do things that people expect you to do. If you have an instinct or an impulse, follow it.”
After Ambrose, Mary has the right idea, with plans A-D. They range from moving to Texas to be involved in the music industry and becoming a motivational speaker to being a hall director. She also includes the possibilities of becoming a camp director or working for Iowa Public Radio.
A fun fact about Mary is that she auditioned for American Idol when she was 17.
Her favorite quote is, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people” – Eleanor Roosevelt.