For Lauren Lagarde, mentoring young adults along their faith journeys has become a mission and now a ministry, and it all came about from a touching promise to a friend.
About seven years ago, one of Lauren’s close friends was dying, and had asked if, after she died, Lauren would be a support to her daughter, who was in her mid-twenties at the time. Of course, Lauren wholeheartedly agreed to her friend’s request, and would meet the young woman for coffee, lunch, or walks in the park, and eventually a beautiful friendship developed between the two. And it was in this relationship with her friend’s daughter that Lauren discovered not only the precious gift of mentoring, but a personal passion and call to accompany other young adults throughout their life journeys.
While Lauren was in the process of taking a Lay Ecclesial Minister Program at the local seminary, this call to spiritual mentorship began to concretize. One of the course requirements was to develop and implement a ministry practicum, and Lauren, inspired by the relationship she had cultivated with her friend’s daughter, immediately felt called to work with young women who were searching for authentic meaning and connection in their lives. In order to better understand those whom she intended to serve, Lauren began by reaching out to about 25-30 young adult women and asking them a set of questions designed to get to the heart of what key issues were important to them, what challenges they faced, what their dreams and goals were in life, and what they genuinely desired. In collectively evaluating these responses, Lauren was able to develop a theme for young adult workshops.
While these questionnaires and their enlightening responses were vital for Lauren’s practicum work, she recognized that the most gratifying part of the experience for her were the one-on-one discussions she had with each of the young women with whom she was working. “The excitement I witnessed in them as they talked about the desires of their hearts was compelling,” remembers Lauren. “Joy and light radiated from each of them as they shared how they wanted to make a difference in the world, and it was apparent that they were so grateful just to be asked and to be listened to.”
For Lauren, this realization was a turning point. “I realized that I could be a listener and a guidepost for others,” she says. Working with Father John Bullock, LC, who had been working with youth and serving in college chaplaincy for much of his priesthood, Lauren began reaching out to young adults seeking guidance and spiritual mentorship. In New Orleans, where she lives, the Regnum Christi young adult ministry is thriving, and there are several ongoing initiatives – like small group fellowship events, Days of Reflections, overnight retreats, and book studies – where spiritual mentoring is offered.
Lauren believes that young adults need – and are seeking out – the gift of spiritual mentoring now more than ever. “Mentoring is not a new idea, but it has a unique purpose for this unique time in our culture today,” says Lauren. “The world of social media and its effects speak loudly – young adults are feeling isolated and depressed. Now more than ever, authentic and real relationships are needed, and that’s a role that mentoring can play. The desire to be heard, understood, affirmed, and loved for who they are is met in the relationship of mentor and mentee.”
For Katie Kampen, one of the young women whom Lauren mentors, this relationship has had a profound impact on her spiritual life and has taught her to approach her faith journey with more trust and confidence:
“Spiritual mentorship is an avenue for Jesus to guide my life. I see my mentor as a Proverbs 31 woman, who ‘laughs without fear of the future.’ She allows Jesus to show her the road to him in every possible route – the back roads, the fast lane, even the dead stop in traffic. She shares those directions to Jesus with me and encourages me to be on the lookout for new roads Jesus may have for me. He uses her life experiences to pour knowledge, wisdom, and courage into me, allowing me to go forth without fear of the future.”
And it’s not just the person being mentored who benefits from this important relationship; as mentor, Lauren herself feels she receives just as many fruits as the people she serves. “What I love about mentoring is the gift of watching others flourish and grow, both spiritually and emotionally, but I did not realize the impact it would have on me!” says Lauren. “Listening to their hopes and dreams, and watching them flourish into what God has intended them to be is an honor and a privilege. I think I receive much more than they do, and I think this is the beauty – God’s presence in the relationship gives their story and journey a sacredness that I am profoundly humbled to be a part of.”
Lauren and Father John are in the process of developing a spiritual mentorship ministry that will include suggestions for hosting workshops, recommendations of best practices, and guidelines on how to initiate a spiritual mentorship program in a Regnum Christi section – at a recent spiritual mentorship workshop in New Orleans, Regnum Christi members from a nearby section attended with the intention of starting up a program in their own area. Lauren and Father John hope to provide guidance and insight for Regnum Christi members that see the need for spiritual mentorship in their own section, and feel called to offer it in a coordinated and purposeful way. “We are finding that Regnum Christi members are called to this ministry of listening, loving, affirming, and challenging young adults to be the best version of themselves,” says Lauren. “Most of us have valuable life experiences that we can share with young adults, and that can be a benefit to others.”
Lauren has been a member of Regnum Christi for about twenty-five years, and is currently serving as Regnum Christi Director of New Orleans. For more information about spiritual mentorship, e-mail Lauren at [email protected].