To enter religious life, Champaign woman seeking help through #ProjectMiracle
CHAMPAIGN — Miracles can be hard to come by, but Pamela Rose Suresca isn’t letting that stop her from pursuing one as if the rest of her life depends on it.
Suresca, who recently ended her job as director of mission formation for weDignify in Champaign, hopes to enter the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, also known as the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco. She has been accepted as an aspirant if she can meet one condition by Sept. 7 and it’s a big one.
She must pay down $139,000 in student loans she accumulated while earning a bachelor’s degree in education from Loyola University Chicago to $16,000. That’s where #ProjectMiracle comes in.
“I know this is my responsibility,” she told The Catholic Post, acknowledging that attending a university that was Catholic, private and out of state had contributed much to her current situation. Still, she hopes people will help her so “together we can serve the young people of our church, heal this culture, and inspire vocations to radically submit their lives to Christ.”
For her part of the miracle, Suresca worked as an assistant to Father Anthony Co, pastor at St. Patrick in Urbana, this summer, took odd jobs, and sold her clothing and other possessions at garage sales. She has also written letters seeking support and gone live on Facebook to give her testimony.
Her friends have helped with things like a monthly “pledge party” and Celebrate Life Coffee House. Other creative approaches included teaching a Zumba class and donating the proceeds to #ProjectMiracle.
As of Aug. 10, Suresca had received $50,000 and “with a grateful heart” posts weekly lists of donors on her website, projectmiracle.wixsite.com/projectmiracle. Among them are the priests she met while working with weDignify, a pro-life organization based at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois in Champaign.
It was at the Newman Center that she became acquainted with the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, who were involved in campus ministry there. Religious life was something she had pondered since childhood and Suresca was attracted by the Sisters’ “joy and child-like faith.”
“It was easy to speak with them. It was easy to share with them. It was easy to pray with them,” she said.
Unbeknownst to her, it was also easy to find them. The motherhouse of the community’s Eastern Province is located in North Haledon, New Jersey — just 15 minutes from where Suresca grew up.
“As part of our Newman Center activities we had office space next to one another and very much worked together in terms of promoting a culture of life and a sense of faith and dignity in one’s personhood and the calling to holiness — to live out holiness in one’s life with joy and courage,” said Sister Theresa Lee, now vocations director for the Salesian Sisters.
She said that Suresca’s spirituality, joy, desire for service and love of God are well matched to the community’s charism, which is “education, formation and evangelization to a life of faith and a life of service on behalf of the most disadvantaged and at risk,” especially among youth and young people.
That commitment to service grew after Suresca graduated from Loyola University in 2013. Rather than teaching, she began full-time mission work with weDignify.
“It’s been the best six years of my life,” she said. “It really formed what I believed in on a difficult public college campus while accompanying young women to choose life in difficult situations.”
After two years of doing that at Northwestern University, DePaul University, Dominican University, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Loyola University, she spent four years with weDignify at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It allowed her relationship with God to deepen so that she could surrender at the end of 2017.
“By the grace of God, I want to be yours totally, fully and completely,” she told Jesus. “I don’t know how. Show me.”
“By the grace of God, I want to be yours totally, fully and completely. I don’t know how. Show me.” — Pamela Rose Suresca to Jesus
Sister Theresa said student debt is a common obstacle for young women who want the opportunity to enter religious life. She praised Suresca’s “great initiative, great zeal, and tremendous faith” in doing her part to reduce her debt.
If she is unable to reach her goal of $16,000, it could delay her entrance. Since the formation process is very structured, that could mean potentially waiting another year, Sister Theresa said.
“I’m not doing anything but trusting in (God’s) will,” Suresca said. “This is my responsibility, but I’m grateful for the generosity people have shown me.”
To save money, Suresca moved from Champaign to her parents’ home last week. Those who wish to support her may write to her in care of Vedasto and Madennie Suresca, 9400 Scenic Sunset Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89117, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.