It has been said that real evangelization is one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread! These are just a few of the amazing individuals who are bringing bread to a hungry world.
Below, you can see and read about 3 of this year's recipients of the CEM POC grant. There are many more who need to be supported by our prayers and financial gifts.
Brandon Ruiz (2022 Grantee)
Originally From: New Jersey
Serving with: Saint Paul's Outreach at Benedictine College, KS
Studied: Business Management at Seton Hall Univ, NJ Ministry Donor Link
About: Brandon grew up in a Puerto-Rican Family with a single mother who raised him with a mix of evangelical Christian and Catholic faiths attending both Evangelical Christian and Catholic schools. In his youth, he had always believed in God but never really went to church on Sundays and didn’t have any kind of a prayer life. So when he headed to college he was really looking forward to getting involved with the party/frat culture. During that first week of college, as he was in search of a friends to watch a popular boxing match, he accepted an invitation to watch it at a campus ministry house off-campus which turned out to be his first SPO men’s event.
Here he met guys who were trying to get to know him in a genuine way and it was really attractive. As he started to spend time at the house he met some of the missionaries who pulled him into ministry events and began to speak truth into his life. He began to join them for church on Sundays , for campus ministry nights and even morning prayer. At a retreat freshman year, he experienced what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ for the first time and to pray for a deeper release of the Holy Spirit in his life. As he became more involved in campus ministry, God began to call him to consider becoming a missionary after graduation.
As he prayed about this, the Lord showed him in a really clear way that he had been preparing him for years for this important and vital work. He revealed to him the phrase “If I could do all these things with 25% of your time, what could I do if you gave me 100% of it”. At that point he knew that this mission was something that the Lord was calling him to.
Georgette Saer (2022 Grantee)
Originally From: Colombia, SA
Serving with: Saint Paul's Outreach at Texas State University
Studied: Clinical Psychology at the University of Central Florida, Orlando Ministry Donor Link
About: In 2001, Georgette's family moved to the United States from Colombia in search of better opportunities. Her extended family in Colombia were culturally Catholic but her parents were committed to the faith encouraging her to attend parish youth group and retreats in High School. By the time she graduated high school and entered college, most of her church friends had either left the faith or were on their way out. In her first two years of college, she felt alone as she struggled to maintain her faith and she drifted into the typical college scene. This was deeply unsatisfying and so she began to look for more.
During her second year, she was invited to a prayer meeting at a friend’s house and God spoke to her for the first time telling her that He loved me and that she had never been alone. She knew her life had meaning and worth and she wanted to aspire for greatness. She began to reinvest in her home parish and to grow spiritually. At college she was invited by her older brother to a retreat hosted by the Catholic Campus Ministry at UCF even though she was not a student there. Here she met many college students who had a passion and zeal for their faith. She felt loved and seen by everyone and the (SPO) missionaries actively pursued her in relationship. By the end of the retreat, she felt so at home with the students that she transferred to UCF the following fall semester. In her last year she lived in a women’s household and through that experience of fruitful friendships began to desire to be on a mission. She knew that God wanted to use her cultural roots to reach other hispanics on campus in the way that others may not be able to do and that's what she's doing as she serves as a missionary in TX.
Noah Rescate (2022 Grantee)
Originally From: Sacramento, CA
Serving with: Saint Paul's Outreach at University of Cincinnati, OH
Studied: Ministry Donor Link
About: Noah's parents are immigrants from the Philippines who left their Catholic faith in college for non-denominational christianity prior to coming to the USA. Despite that influence, faith wasn’t a huge part of his life. He would go to church on Sundays and pray before meals believing that this was the peak of Christianity. For him, Sports was the biggest thing in his life and it’s what kept him on the "right path" especially in high school. He became involved in an Olympic development program and was able to represent Team USA in international competitions.
In freshman year of college, sports were replaced with college life which led to partying, alcohol, drugs, and sexual sin. This left him empty and so, sophomore year, he decided to pursue better influences. He was pulled into an SPO men’s group and the campus ministry and so when his girlfriend broke up with him at 2am he called one of the missionaries for support. At that hour, the missionary picked up and told him to come to the house to talk. On his way, he prayed, “Lord, I feel like I have nothing left, what do you want from me?” Jesus replied “Will you be all in? I don’t want 80% or 99.999%. Will you be all in for me?” He had no idea what that meant, but he figured he'd give the Lord a shot. From there, he really started to dive into the community and to pursue his faith. He was still protestant and had no intentions of becoming Catholic because of doubts related to the Eucharist. That doubt was quieted at a retreat where they offered adoration. At the retreat he found himself bowing before the monstrance and asking myself “why did I just bow for a piece of bread?” He heard the Lord say to him “because that’s me”. He later became Catholic his junior year, and lived in the men’s house for 2 years.
He began to feel a call to mission but wasn't sure if it was in the workforce or college
ministry. He felt the pressure of being a first-generation Filipino-American and growing up
with the idea of working hard and getting a good job. On the first day of my senior year, the Holy Spirit led him to a freshman, Filipino, from CA, obsessed with girls. It was like looking into a mirror! As he discipled the young man, he invited him to a retreat where the young man had a powerful encounter with Christ. That experience filled him with conviction that he just told the Lord,“Yes Lord, this is what I want to do, I want to bring your sons back home to you.” It was so clear he was giving me a heart for men, just like me, so I applied to be an SPO missionary.
Pascale Kunda (2021 & 2022 Grantee)
Originally From: Rwanda
Serving with: Saint Paul's Outreach at the Univ of MN
Studied: Mechanical Engineering at the Univ of St. Thomas Ministry Donor Link
About: The Father has been chasing me since day one, and his love has been morphing me into God’s image. My parents are Catholic and although they themselves did not attend mass, they always encouraged me to go. I would go and pray in our small adoration Chapel after mass but it did not really change my character or behaviors. I would consider Jesus on Sundays. In 2014, Jesus met me in my high school and radically changed my life. He helped me understand his sacrifice for me and helped me become more committed to him. I started praying and reading the scriptures but it was not until 2017 that my relationship with him really skyrocketed when I prayed to receive more of the Holy Spirit and after that my life became a journey of sanctification. I started hearing the voice of the Lord more clearly and encountered the power of the Holy Spirit in a Fan Into Flame retreat which not only impacted my worship, but also my understanding of my relationship with God. I am happy to say that I am still running the race set before me with endurance fixing my eyes on Jesus the Lord, the founder and perfecter of my faith
Cecilio Lopez (2021 Grantee)
Originally From: TX
Serving with: Saint Paul's Outreach at Univ of Cent FL
Studied: Spanish & sociology minor in English at Tx State Univ Ministry Donor Link
About: I was raised culturally Catholic my faith was something you did on Christmas and\aster. In High School God touched a deep part of my heart in a retreat called Busqueda. After the retreat I got seriously involved with the ministry. In college, I wanted to continue my faith journey, but I was not able to stay as engaged with my church and faith. Each year I seemed to get further out into the world without knowing it. Then in my last year of undergrad, God put men in my life that would call me to more. Through the men of Saint Paul’s Outreach, I was able to submerge myself in an environment of true masculinity and Christian Brotherhood. For my Senior year of college, I was able to walk with many first-year students and see the Lord work in their lives. Seeing their lives transformed allowed me to consider full-time mission work. The need is great, and I knew with my experience many students would be blessed. Especially those who come from immigrant backgrounds.
Santonio Hill (2021 & 2022 Grantee)
Serving with: Vagabond Missions in Pittsburg, PA
Studied: Philosophy at Cath Univ of America Ministry Donor Link
About: I was raised a cradle Catholic but didn't have a real relationship with God growing. I spent my days chasing the world and investing in my love of football. I was offered a scholarship to play in college but as I considered this move, I was encouraged by a priest to consider the seminary. At first I declined but I felt God spoke to me in a dream encouraging me to reconsider. I went to seminary and discerned out but the experience I was able to truly fall in love with God and make deep change. After seminary I worked for the church as a religion teacher, a FOCUS missionary for 3 yrs and then worked in the Archdiocese of Phil doing urban outreach. This is where I encountered and felt called to Vagabond Ministry