“What Would happen if You Just Let Go of fear?”

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Maddie Hornikel is an incoming Cohort 10 Seton Teaching Fellow. She recently graduated from Kent State University with a Bachelor of Science in Integrated Language Arts Education. Maddie, who is a passionate educator and convert to Catholicism, will be serving at our Romero Academy network in Cincinnati, Ohio. In this reflection, she shares her experience of trust, prayer, and abandonment to the Lord as she discerned His call for her after college.

As a young Catholic studying education in college, I had always been vaguely aware of Seton Teaching Fellows. I’d encounter STF’s content on social media every now and then—at times I even felt the Lord nudging me to learn more—but, like so many other twenty-somethings, I thought my own plans were the ones worth following. During the spring semester of my senior year of college, I spent many weeks writing applications and cover letters to every and any local school with an opening in my licensure area. Throughout this process, I felt no peace. At every turn, there was just something in my spirit that wouldn’t settle. When I came across yet another post from STF on a Sunday morning in March, I reacted reflexively with my own plan: “God, I don’t need that, I know what I’m doing.” At that moment, pushing back on God, something changed in me. My heart finally opened to Him, and I felt Him gently say “No, you really don’t.”

For the first time, I listened to that nudge. I began to look deeper into STF and I fell completely in love with the mission. The idea that I’d get to serve God’s children both academically and spiritually was exactly what I had unknowingly been searching for. Further faith formation and community felt like what my soul would need in order to be fully rooted in Christ in this new stage of life after graduation. I applied that morning and then headed to Mass, where my Newman center priest’s homily was on Julius Caesar’s words as he crossed the Rubicon: “iacta alea est,” or “the die is cast.” I felt this little smile from the Lord as the homily went on—only He and I knew that I had just cast my very own die for Him that morning. 

Ms. Hornikel, recently graduated!

But, as it tends to happen through discernment, doubt crept in. On the drive home, I was assailed by questions and fear. Do I really want to move so far away from home so soon after graduation? What about my family? What if, as a convert to the Faith, I don’t know enough yet to be a missionary? The Lord silenced all of those questions with one of His own: “Maddie, what would happen if you just let go of fear?” I realized then that it wasn’t my job to have the answers, and it wasn’t my job to know the path; my job was to follow God’s guidance and see what He’d do. At that moment, I surrendered the entire process to Him: whether or not I’d even be accepted as a Fellow; which geography I’d be placed in; what my community would be like—I laid it all at Jesus’ feet and asked Him to do what He wanted with it. 

The spiritual peace that I couldn’t find in my other job applications came almost immediately. Instead of begging God for the outcome I wanted, I found myself just asking that His will be done. I was even okay with the thought of potentially being turned away! For the first time in my adult life, I had completely surrendered to the Father’s plan—and what a peace that was. Throughout the entire application and discernment process, I felt doors opening in my heart that I had never even known were closed. The Lord has shown me His providence over these past few months in so many beautiful ways that it almost seems unbelievable. I did a Marian consecration leading up to the Feast of the Annunciation, and I remember asking the Lord that day for the chance to give Him my fiat as Our Lady did. Just two days later, I got the email inviting me to become part of Seton Teaching Fellows 10th cohort. 

I said, “yes.”

The view from Price Hill, Cincinnati

In talking to my roommates about the upcoming move to a big city, I offhandedly mentioned that I’d miss how brightly the stars shone in our little college town. I later visited one of STF’s mission sites—Cincinnati—on a Come and See weekend after accepting my offer. When I climbed into bed during my first night in Cincinnati, I rolled over and peered out the window to see a sky laden with stars. I fell in love with Cincinnati and the mission there. The day after I drove home, I received a call telling me that I had been placed there for my upcoming year of service.

Everything was truly in the Lord’s hands. All I had to do was abandon myself to Him. Even now, there are still moments when I sit in complete awe at the incredible mission the Lord has set out for me over this next year. He has multiplied my “yes” beyond anything that I could have ever dreamed, and He has given me abundant joy in return.

I learned one very important lesson through the whole ordeal: we are the children of a Father who will never be outdone in generosity.

So, I return now to the question which the Lord posed: what would happen if I just let go of fear? The answer came to me slowly during this discernment process, but I learned one very important lesson through the whole ordeal: we are the children of a Father who will never be outdone in generosity. There have been times when the path has brought anxiety or felt unclear, but as I’ve pressed on, The Father has consistently showered me with mercy and grace beyond what I could ever imagine. 

I’ll be honest—I’ve always been a Martha. I love my work (especially teaching), and I find I’m always focused on what I can do next without taking time to just stop, listen, and be. In this season of surrender, I can feel the Father making me more and more of a Mary. While I’m so excited to see everything I’ll get to do this year, I’m even more grateful for the chance to sit at the Teacher’s feet and let Him pour out on me. I know that this year will have its difficult moments. I will face new challenges in both my faith and my work, and I will overcome them by leaning on the Father. I also know that in laying down this year of my life to the Lord, He will bless me in return beyond all measure, far beyond my doubts and fears. I find myself looking forward with a hope that comes from surrender and saying, “Jesus, my die is cast. Do with it as You will.” 

Are you searching for abandonment to Christ? Want to learn more about the communities we serve, like Maddie’s placement in Cincinnati? We’re still hiring for Cohort 10! STF is connecting faith-filled leaders to work that matters—pick up your cross and find your Calcutta with STF.