How FOCUS Summer Projects Changed Our Lives

Grace’s Summer Projects Experience

Coming to know my identity amidst the noise of the world was no easy task. In fact, with this task, I often missed the mark. It wasn’t until I spent a summer at FOCUS Summer Projects, that I truly fell in love with who God made me to be and how He wanted me to live: in my identity as a daughter of God, His beloved. I remember arriving on the first day in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, nervous about meeting the people with whom I would be spending the summer. I had previously lived by finding my worth in what people thought of me, so, of course, thoughts of comparison were running rampant. But fast forward a few weeks and I was in a retreat house, hearing the words spoken over me that my Father loves me and His love is what defines my life. Yes, I had heard those words many times before, but this summer it became clear. The conviction that we are children of God permeates communal life at Summer Projects. I had women, who had become my best friends in just a few weeks, reminding me daily that I was a beloved daughter. I had men, who led with servant hearts, affirming my femininity. Above all, I devoted time every day to be before Jesus, who displayed His heart to me in the Blessed Sacrament. We are all beloved sons and daughters of God, and Summer Projects provides a summer full of living out this truth. This truth is yours, too.

Grace Doherty Jumping

Freedom was never something I thought I needed until I lost the freedom I thought I wanted. This so-called “freedom” consisted of doing what I wanted, when I wanted, because it pleased me. Before Summer Projects, I would have never understood how cleaning toilets, vacuuming carpets, and making beds would result in the freest joy I have experienced. At the end of week one, I was walking into the dining hall, freshly clocked out of my 8-hour housekeeping job, when I experienced a pang of sorrow. My job was hard and demanding, and I was struck with the realization that, for most of my life, I had allowed my joy to be contingent on life circumstances. Here I was, in one of the most beautiful places, with beautiful souls, and I was not free to experience joy. I knew I had a whole summer ahead of me and it would entail a lot of mundane work. This work could threaten to steal my joy, or I could surrender to the freedom that is only found in Jesus. St. John Paul II was once asked when he has free time, and his response was “All of my time is free.” Jesus was teaching me this truth as I worked forty hours a week at Summer Projects. Jesus and I began to clean together, cry together, and laugh together. Through Summer Projects, He taught me that freedom is not in being able to choose what I please, but to choose Him in every moment. Jesus wants this freedom for you.

Mary Grace’s Summer Projects Experience

I walked in to my first year at Summer Projects in Estes Park, Colorado with no idea of what the summer would hold; I walked out with an image of the Father that changed everything. Summer Projects taught me how to truly live the Gospel and experience my identity as a daughter of the Father in Christ, especially through the community around me. It taught me so much about how to incorporate prayer and the sacraments into a hectic schedule. The doors of my heart were flung wide open in prayer and play, and Jesus revealed to me the depths of love in my wild heart for mission, all because I gave a simple “yes” that allowed Him time and space to work in me.

Mary Grace Hudson at Summer Projects

Summer Projects gave me a deep love for the saints; for the simplicity of what it looks like to be holy; for friendships with priests and spiritual directors that I still look to and lean on; and for a wildly beautiful community that I’m still so close to now. My Summer Projects family is constantly praying for one another, and our group message is still frequently filled with updates of the joys and sorrows of life. I hope that, at some point in their lives, everyone gets to have blessed days like these, with people like this. Summer Projects has given me men and women that I completely admire, deeply love, and couldn’t journey to heaven without!

Grace Doherty and Mary Grace Hudson
Grace Doherty and Mary Grace Hudson
Grace serves as a missionary at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Her home is in St. Louis, Missouri with her parents and three sisters. She studied education and loves teaching women about their call to holiness. Mary Grace grew up in Mississippi but has spent the last four years in Colorado with her family where she studied health and exercise science at Colorado State University. She serves as second year missionary at Kansas State University and finds great joy in living the adventure Christ has called her to!

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