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Answering the Lord’s Call to Ruah Woods Institute

June 13, 2023

“Charlene, I feel like I just went on a personal retreat.” I told a close friend on the phone as I left a workshop to learn how to teach chastity to my students many years ago.  I remember Charlene being a bit confused and asking me questions to help me process what I had experienced.  What I had not yet realized was that in order for the presenter to explain what chastity is, he had to explain what it means to be human first.  In the midst of doing that, I felt as if he was telling my story, the desire to be loved, the ache that nothing in this world satisfies, the questions about why I exist and what I am to be doing with my life.  My heart was burning within me, and I could not deny it.  

This experience truly ignited a fire within me to delve deeper into the teachings of Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.   I began to read whatever corresponding books I could get my hands on and attend a plethora of courses at the wonderful Theology of the Body Institute.  As I finished each publication and TOB course, I started to share my new found knowledge about the beautiful truths of the human person with my students.  I was always so amazed at how well they grasped the concepts I taught them.  I was in awe of how their language began to change.  Being a gift of self, language of the body, and respecting the dignity of others became phrases everyone was saying, even outside of the classroom.  I saw my students become more alive as they themselves discovered the beauty of who God created them to be.  Parents would share with me the positive impact learning and assimilating Pope St. John Paul II’s scriptural reflections were having on their child and their family.  

What I was experiencing in my classroom is what I desire for other classrooms.  I desire my nieces and nephews and the children of my friends to be able to go to a school that is teaching and living the truth of what it means to be human.  I want them to see themselves as a gift, to know that they have an invaluable worth and are loved by God, no matter what they do or do not do.  In a world that at times appears so dark due to the Culture of Death, I want them to be the beacon of light, to show the world there is hope and redemption is possible.

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:15-16).

The Lord is the one who called me to Ruah Woods.  He has asked me to follow him just as Jesus asked his apostles to follow him.  As I look back at the last ten and a half years of teaching in elementary school and three years of teaching in high school, I can see how the Lord has prepared me for this.  He longs for me to use my experience of teaching Theology of the Body to grade school and high school students, as well as my creativity, to impact even more individuals with these life-changing teachings.  At Ruah Woods Institute, I will have the opportunity to train teachers and continue to create lessons centered on the teachings of Pope St. John Paul II.  

Little did I know that saying yes to attending a professional development on chastity years ago, would lead me here.  It is a reminder of the beauty of giving God our yes, even if it seems minuscule and small at the time.  

Written by, Maria Cossell,

Theology of the Body Formation Specialist for Ruah Woods Institute since
June 1, 2023 — WELCOME MARIA!!



Evie Estes