Can I Sell Corndogs and Still Be Like Mother Teresa? My life as a young Catholic in a secular world. You know in the movies when there is a dramatic interview scene and the interviewer asks “So, who are you?” which generally results in the main character entering into a mid-life crisis because she cannot think of a statement that embodies the entity of her entire being. While I by no means have my life figured out, I like to think I would be confident with my answer: “Hi, my name is Jenna. I am a devout Catholic who wishes she could be like Mother Teresa, but remain close to my family and have the ability to still sell corn-dogs.” At this answer, I imagine the interviewer would have the confusion of a cat in a Derby race and simply thank me for my time.
If the interviewer would give me enough time to elaborate on such a profound question, I would explain to him that I am a cradle Catholic. I was born and raised in Southern Indiana, who just so happened to spend every summer in a very secular environment: a carnival. Since childhood, my summers were filled with working alongside my parents in the family concession business, also known as Ford’s Foods. While I would consider myself a devout Catholic, often in the summers, I held onto Catholicism by a thread. I was lucky to attend Mass twice within the two months that were spent traveling when I was younger, and I had yet to grasp onto steady prayer practices. It’s hard to say if Mother Teresa would have recommended living life in the way I was doing in my youth. And yet, while I had to battle for my faith in the summers, my faith-life at home was not much stronger.
"I discovered myself answering many times that, no, I do not worship Mary and that yes, I am in fact, a Christian..."
When I was not dipping corn-dogs, I was home in Crawford County, IN. I was attending my small, yet fierce Catholic Church, named St. Joseph’s. I found the need to share and inform those around me what Catholicism was, in comparison to their misconceptions. I discovered myself answering many times that, no, I do not worship Mary and that yes, I am in fact, a Christian. If you were to enter my beloved parish, you would find a simple church with two-stained glass windows, about 20 pews, and a crucifix hanging behind a very small alter. On a good day, there are maybe 50 parishioners that would fill the place where I first learned of Jesus. My childhood parish is the only Catholic Church in my entire county. My first bible school class consisted of my amazing mother sitting at our dining room table with a workbook the church gave her because I would have been the only kid in my religious education class. I eventually was able to get in a class with other kids, and those classes lasted until junior high. Looking back, I was a mustard seed in infertile soil. I was lucky to be watered. In hindsight, I know the only reason I was watered and rooted in God was because of my mother’s faith, my parish that became my family, and God’s love. With all of this in mind, I would have never imagined I would be where I am today in Faith.
"The journey of faith is like climbing the mountains. The hike to top is treacherous, but the view is not of this world..."
I currently am studying education at Indiana State University, and being Catholic in college has widened my horizons on the topic of Catholicism. I entered my Freshman year, knowing that I wanted to continue to attend Mass. Little did I know, I would be immersed in such a beautiful, Catholic community in Terre Haute. That following summer, I went to Mass more than any other summer. I sought out more time with God, and I was rewarded for this by growing into a deeper relationship with Him. I was once told that the journey of faith is like climbing the mountains. The hike to top is treacherous, but the view is not of this world. I have reached the view, and I like to believe that I’m still observing its beauty.
"My dad turned to me and simply stated, “Jenna, kindness is always the answer.”"
I feel I am currently at the top of my faith mountain, and my trust in God is secured. However, I still question whether or not I can be surrounded by secularism and still strive to impact the world as Mother Teresa did and live this life of faith. While I have no expectations of winning a Nobel Peace Prize, if I could bring half the love that she brought to the world, I would consider myself successful. This past summer is when I asked myself if I could sell corn-dogs and be like Mother Teresa. Moreover, I was asking myself if I did not pursue a vocation or job that pertained to the religious life if I could still be an impact and serve the Lord with my gifts and talents. Then, I thought of my favorite corn-dog story. I was 12 years old working at the LaPorte County Fair. An older woman ordered a corn-dog and was paying with change. She was just a few dimes short, but my dad gave the signature nod that meant the woman gave what she could. I turned to the woman and mustered the most genuine smile on my face, proceeded to tell her that we were even and to enjoy the rest of her evening. She gave me a smile of pure joy and thanked me. My dad turned to me and simply stated, “Jenna, kindness is always the answer.” While I may not be starting orphanages or feeding the poor each and every day, I have learned that by merely possessing a spirit of kindness and showing Christ’s love towards each person we meet is enough to have a Christian impact on at least that one person. And, it only takes one person to change the world. Like most young Catholics, I worry about if I am truly following the path that God created for me. I am still searching for answers, but I believe that by attempting to be a light to those around me I will only draw closer to God. And as to whether I can still sell corn-dogs and be like Mother Teresa, I believe the answer is yes. People of non-Christian faith, many of whom did not want her there, surrounded Teresa of Calcutta. Yet, despite all adversities, she still managed to spread love. My Calcutta may be rural Indiana, and my people may be hungry customers, but by always approaching people with kindness and love, I believe that is the true calling. You do not have to be a saint to bring change to the world.