Good morning, friends! Happy Tuesday!
Today, I am so happy to share a beautiful interview with one of my favorite Instagram friends!! Perla is such a beautiful soul and truly on fire for doing the Lord’s work. Her passion for her community and their growth is literally jumping off the screen! So, I hope you all will enjoy reading her story as much as I have!!
Be sure to give her some love on her blog, www.gardensgrownbygod.wordpress.com, and on Instagram, @gardensgrownbygod.
+ For those who aren’t familiar with you, please introduce yourself:
Hope you’re all having an amazing, super fantastic day. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Perla. I am 20 years old and am also a Catholic blogger. Also, for those who don’t know, I’m Dominican, well my parents are, I was born in America, but you gotta represent right? Anything else? Well I’m a Jersey girl who’s got a big heart for serving the Church in any way I can.
+ When did your relationship with Christ first take root in your life? What encouraged you in striving for a deeper relationship with God?
My life was very much in and out of the church throughout my childhood. I was at church mainly on special occasions; Easter, Christmas, etc. It was only when my family reconnected with an old friend in fifth grade that my spiritual life really began. At first, it was the little things, going to mass with my family, singing with the children’s choir, things like that. Then eighth grade came, and I found myself sitting in a room with people years older than me, wondering why in the world I was there on a Friday night at 7:30 when I could’ve been doing anything else. (Those angsty tween years am I right?) I was going every week, to this youth group called Jovenes de Jesus, which translates to Youth of Jesus. They were so eccentric, so loud, so charismatic, and so welcoming. I, at 12 years old, felt more welcome there, with people who were starting college, graduating college, and out of college, than I felt with my own friends at school. My sister had already begun singing in their ministry a couple years prior, so there had already been some form of a connection to the group, that and my best friend was also there and her sister also sang in the ministry. Crazy world, huh? Later in my life, I found myself I found myself serving at soup kitchens with the Franciscan Friars, and making friends with people who I would’ve never guessed I’d have made friends with, like EVER. But above everything else, I was happy. They all made me strive to be better, they set my heart ablaze once again and they truly helped me realize that my passion in life was to serve and to help others in whatever way possible.
+ How do you find ways to live joyfully as a daughter of Christ in your daily life?
Ok, this might sound dumb, but bare with me. Every time I see a flower, I see it as God giving me a gift. Yea, alright let me explain it. I’ve loved flowers for as long as I can remember, taking pictures of them, or drawing them, doodling them into the corners of my notebook or on my desk as a kid, stuff like that. As I got older, I was thinking one day, scribbling one into my journal, “God, thank-you so much for having given me something that can make me so stupidly happy, for no reason too!” It’s so beautiful to rejoice in His simplicity. The softness of the breeze, the stillness of the sky, and then the clouds turbulence, in how delicate each and every petal is. Just as St. Thérèse saw beauty and grace in the wildflowers and in the complete garden of God’s creation, I too feel the joy of nature and it’s surroundings. It just reminds me how He made made all of these things that we see as day to day “whatever’s” and to love the small things as much as I love everything else.
+ You have a deep-rooted passion for helping Hispanic youth. How did this passion grow into what it is today?
As mentioned earlier, I am an active member and music minister of Jovenes de Jesus. We reach out to the youth to invite them to begin a relationship with Christ. In this past year, I’ve also joined a branch of Corazón Puro (Pure Heart) in New Jersey. This group spreads the message of chastity for young adults. If I hadn’t already written so much, I would totally put their mission statement up, but alas, I’ve got too much to say. I guess my love for the youth first began when I noticed that in the church there isn’t ever a set place for young adults. There’s catechism classes up until eighth grade, and then a huge gap to your grandma’s favorite local rosary club. So where does the youth go? I want to be able to bring them to the foot of the cross where they can feel what I felt that first time, and love what I love.
+ You have been involved with youth ministry at your parish for more than 7 years. What are some ways that you encourage faith in the youth of your parish?
I think one of the biggest encouragements of faith is setting a clear example. The grandmas of the 12:30 Sunday Spanish mass know me by name and face because I’m there every week. Moms come to me and introduce me to their daughters and their sons, and I invite them to the youth group and support their mixed feelings about it as well. Something that I’ve come to notice is that kids think that church groups are for moms and for their great-great-extinct grandmother, and whenever they see that there’s someone under the age of 21 talking about God, and about a youth group, and you see how intrigued these kids get. There is where that willingness to come starts, even if it’s just an idea, it still sparks the littlest something.
Recently, you have also started another branch of ministry: Corazon Puro. Please explain a bit of the mission behind this ministry and your hopes for the youth involved.
Maddy, I’m so sorry that I talk so much, but in my defense, you gave me the opportunity. Remember when I said I wouldn’t give our mission statement because it was too long? Well here it is,
“Corazón Puro is an organization dedicated to forming leaders, beginning with Latino youth and young adults, to bring about a Culture of Life. Inspired by the life and Theology of St. John Paul II, these leaders are equipped to become Christ-centered, pure of heart, joy-filled agents of change, in the city and out of the city, in this country and around the world.”
There it is, that’s our goal. At the end of the day, my goal specifically is to help bring as many people as I can to Christ. My hopes for the youth that get involved in CP is for them to become servers, and then missionaries so that they too can go spread the Word as they learned it.
What are some of the fruits you have seen through these beautiful ministries?
I love this question so much, because it’s going to sound like am bragging, and just to be clear, I totally am, but only a little bit. One of the fruits that I’ve seen come out of these ministries is vocations! I’ve seen a good friend enter Seminary and two friends join communities. I just think it’s so cool to be able to say that I have a close friend who’s a sister. Alright, time to remember what humility is. Honestly, vocations are just the half of the fruits I’ve seen. I’ve see prayers answered, and gifts received. It’s amazing how suddenly the Lord gives something, it’s like, “Oh you want to sing?” Boom. You immediately know the Ave Maria, even the harmonies.
As ministers in the church, it can be so easy to be overcome with fear. How have you conquered fear in doing God’s will for your life and in helping others?
FEAR. Spooky right? I find myself in that space often, even if it’s an irrational anxiety, or something that would make most people curl their toes and hide. We’re only human, and it’s expected. When I find myself lurking around that space of fear, it’s usually because I feel like I’ve lost control of whatever I have going on. Then I start to hover between regaining control, and then being horrified that I’m going to completely lose it. It’s then that I start to realize, it’s not me and what I want, it’s whatever He has in store for me; I notice that in my life there’s only so much I can do by myself and remember, I can’t do it alone. Something that’s really helped me during these times is completely putting everything away, laptop, notebook, journal, away, and listening to Thy Will Be Done by Hillary Scott. Whenever I see someone that goes through that same struggle of overthinking like I do, I tell them that at the end of the day, Christ has a plan for your life, and whether that path is hard right now, or hard later, it’s still the best one. There’s nothing in this world that you can fear that God doesn’t have control over.
On your blog, you talk a little about embracing one’s authentic femininity. How do you strive to do this in your daily life?
To me, femininity is more than wearing skirts and heels, and earrings all the time, and looking poised, proper, and perfect. Personally, I’m not a fan of a lot of jewelry, I’m 5’8 so heels are a bust, and you’ll probably find me in my converse or in my birks. There’s also nothing wrong with anything I mentioned above, just saying, they’re just not for some people, and that’s totally ok. I think femininity should be based less on how you look and more on how you present yourself. That being said, no one is saying be a damsel in distress, because that’s not what I’m trying to get across. It’s about owning your womanhood and carrying yourself proud. I think my friend Lia said it best when she said,
“…it’s about using the beauty of a woman’s soul to lead others…the state your heart is in, indicates of what your life is.”
I love this quote from Lia’s talk because it gives the woman authority. So much can be said in the way a woman carries herself and that can be so inspiring to people. It’s there that I find myself embracing my femininity, by attempting to show others God’s love, through me. That, and a little nail polish doesn’t hurt either. 😉
How would you encourage others to follow the whisper of Christ when it comes to starting any form of ministry?
My biggest word of advice is (numbered),
- Think about why you want to start the ministry and what it would be for.
- Pray about it, discernment is key.
- Don’t be afraid, if the Lord puts something in your heart and if it’s on fire, that’s a good sign!!
- Ask for help, we can’t do it on our own, you need people who are going to help you get your ministry off the ground and running.
- Remember who is in the center of it all. Not even the idea of having a ministry would’ve popped into your head if Christ wasn’t there.
Firstly, before I end this, I just want to thank Maddy for giving me the chance to come on here and type a lot of words that may or may not have been written during the a.m hours. Writing all of this out really brings to mind everything that God has done in my life and how much His love has made me grow, and still allows me to go further and deeper into my faith. It’s all His will and His work. And on that note I end. I’m so grateful for all of you lovelies reading this and I’ll be praying for each and every one of you.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.
St. Philomena, pray for us
God Bless, and have an amazing week!
I hope you all have a beautiful day!!