The formation and education I received throughout life taught me the head knowledge of the Catholic faith. It was a gift—a valuable and important thing for a young man to have. However, it was an incomplete education because I lacked the heart knowledge which directs our faculties in charitable ways; it wasn’t until I became a Seton Teaching Fellow that I really started working towards the gift of Charity.
Let me explain.
My name’s Evan Vautour. I grew up in a simple, faithful Catholic family in Columbus, Ohio. We learned the faith at home, and engaged with the sacraments regularly. I even had opportunities to experience Jesus in meaningful ways when I attended and worked at Catholic Youth Summer Camp in Ohio. After high school, I enrolled at Ohio State University where I was actively involved in campus ministry and the collegiate mission called St. Paul’s Outreach. Through all of these experiences I received powerfully the love of Christ and was formed well in the faith.
This love further developed as I lived for two years in a collegiate Catholic men’s household through St. Paul’s Outreach. I formed bonds of brotherhood with Christian men who truly loved me, who would stand with me through all the hardships of the spiritual life, and who I knew would willingly die for me. As I moved towards graduation in May of 2022, I grew more deeply in my faith and in the blessings of the spiritual life. I share all of this information simply to show that I have been loved by God. I have received His love in many ways and it has always been a gift.
And yet, despite this, I didn’t know how to give God’s love back to others.
Looking back on my senior year in college, I had season tickets to the best college football team in the country, I had great friends, the freedom of owning a car, amazing classes, access to an exciting city . . . and no responsibilities. Honestly, this was a recipe for a fantastic senior year, but it was by no means fertile soil for unlocking deep love. It was certainly possible for me to develop charity through a good prayer life and fraternal care for my roommates, but the Lord had greater plans than convenient love. Looking back on my year as a missionary and teacher, I realize that what God called me to was the cultivation of true charity by placing me in situations where it is extremely difficult to choose love.
Jesus says to us “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” When we really realize the true extent of that commandant, it shatters our reality.
When I became a missionary educator with Seton Teaching Fellows, I was given the space and conditions necessary for me to rise to new heights of Christian love. My life has been transformed because I’ve been given the space to not only receive God’s love, but to return it freely, and this is the core of Christ’s Gospel message.
Jesus says to us “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” When we really realize the true extent of that commandant, it shatters our reality. Jesus loved me by suffering a horrible death, by suffering betrayal at the hands of His disciples, by suffering humiliation and torture at the hands of His own people. He carried a cross bearing the weight of the world for about half a mile and then he hung from it and died.
That’s love—and we’re called by Christ to the exact same depth of love for our brothers and sisters.
In my year as a Fellow, the Lord has led me into beautiful situations where the most Christ-like option is the most difficult option. In my role as a Seton Teaching Fellow, I catechize and educate Kindergarteners. I can easily say that this has been the greatest joy of my life so far. As a young man of faith, I sometimes get to be a child’s first exposure to Christ and I have been thrust into the role of spiritual fatherhood and all of the responsibility that entails. This is an absolute blessing, but working with Kindergarteners has—by its very nature—challenged me to grow in difficult and inconvenient ways.
One of my students this year—let’s just call her Diana—has caused me to rely on the Lord in a very intentional way. Diana has stolen my Christian heart, and she’s caused me to go to great lengths to show her the love that God has for her. The thing is, Diana has a speech impediment and she speaks English as a second language. This language barrier has made it very difficult for me to understand her needs. At the beginning of the year it was incredibly challenging. This breakdown in communication led her to have frequent outbursts within the class. She would sit in the corner of the room, cover her ears, and—through her body language and choice of words—display evidently her disdain for me and the other students. Diana made my class very difficult to teach and, honestly, I sometimes entertained the thought of giving up on her. However, the Lord gave me charity and patience, and I did all that I could to build a positive relationship with her.
Instead of just backing away from Diana, I decided to implement a new relationship building technique I designed: Operation Good Vibes Only. I entered school everyday on a secret mission to win over Diana. I would come into her classroom every day during the morning snack and bring some Oreo Minis with me. At first, she turned her back to me, gave me the cold shoulder, and ignored me. However, after a week or so, Diana began to eat with me and we would talk. We talked about any mundane, silly thing: her favorite food, her favorite class, her family, what she likes to do for fun. Along with our other interactions, Diana and I built a relationship and she started to understand that I was there out of a fatherly, Christian love.
I know it seems like a really little thing, but, just being there for a student is an extremely powerful witness. Also, it maybe doesn’t look like Christ’s cross, but it wasn’t easy either. It took time, it took creativity, it took patience, and I had to recommit to the choice to serve Diana every single day—but, it’s what she deserved as a child of God. Now, Diana is one of the most engaged students in my class. She has even come to receive the Lord’s love herself. We recently prayed in class, and she told me that Jesus said to her, “I love you too.” I remember the ways in which God has shown his love to me, especially as a child, and I rejoice knowing that my disciples have that opportunity as well.
As I’ve matured and entered into this year of service, I am acting upon the gifts that God has given me and—through His grace and power—the students I serve are receiving a love that can only come from the Risen Lord.