Couple lives out God's call as FOCUS missionaries at Virginia Tech

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When Carmen and Andrew DeCelle first stepped onto campus at George Mason University in Fairfax their freshman year, they did not know their futures included college life long after graduation.

The couple originally met before the first day of class in the fall of 2008. Carmen was from Springfield, and Andrew was from Falls Church. They knew each other through the Catholic Campus Ministry and from singing in the church choir. Neither felt more for the other than friendship at the time.

"The only reason I started liking Carmen was, in (Eucharistic) Adoration one day, the thought of 'why don't you like Carmen' popped into my head," said Andrew about his change in feelings. "Had I not been attentive to what God was trying to tell me, I wouldn't have ended up with Carmen."

They both agreed on one thing: On Nov. 1, 2011, Andrew confessed his feelings to the woman he now calls his wife.

"Our faith brought us together," said Andrew without hesitating. "There is no way we would have ever gotten together if we hadn't been involved in ministry."

Catholic Campus Ministry impacted their lives more than just bringing the two together. It helped them discover what God was calling them to do.

"I had been growing a lot the past years in my faith and reaching out to people on a college campus," said Carmen, whose smile grew as big as her eight-month baby bump the more she talked. "I could tell that I came alive a lot more when I was doing college ministry work. It wasn't even just me; it wasn't really about how awesome or skilled I was, but that this was where I needed to be."

Andrew said the first glimpse of his calling came while building houses with Habitat for Humanity as an alternative spring break trip. "I was very inspired by my campus minister and my guide who was interning at Mason at the time," he said. "I just saw the joy that they had, and thought, 'This is a really cool thing that they get to do for their actual job: to lead students on these trips and help them grow in their faith.' It attracted me to Youth Apostles, which ultimately brought me into this desire to serve other people and bring them to Christ."

With the love of Christ in their hearts and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in their minds, Carmen and Andrew both answered their call to be missionaries on a college campus.

Carmen became a Fellowship of Catholic University Students missionary for the University of Kentucky after graduation to fulfill her desire to serve others. Her decision allowed Andrew the freedom to do the same. For a year and a half, the two dated long distance as they pursued the same passion but in different states.

Then, Carmen was able to witness one of her proudest moments as a missionary. She attributes the Holy Spirit working through her brought a young girl back into the church.

After being separated for more than a year, Carmen and Andrew reunited at Virginia Tech's Catholic Campus Ministry, the Newman Community.

"We're the relational aspect to the Newman Community," said Carmen about their job in Blacksburg. "Essentially, our job is to be on campus and invite students to grow in their relationship with Jesus as well as to inspire them and build them up through Bible study, called small groups. Really, we prep them for a Christ-centered life."

Building their relationship around God has helped them become stronger together. They see working together as a positive way to grow in their love of God and their service of others.

"In terms of Carmen and Andrew's ministry, they have decided to be FOCUS missionaries together," said Chris Hitzelberger, director of the Newman Catholic Campus Ministry. "I think on a college campus, it's very easy to focus on college life that you forget a little bit about the bigger picture. I think Andrew and Carmen force that bigger picture into the eyes of the students here because they are living out their vocation."

"A lot of our work ends up being not even really us but the students that we mentor and the students in their bible studies and that they reached out to," said Carmen.

Their love of God, each other and members of the community has made a difference in the lives of students at Virginia Tech. The couple found both religious and intimate love at a Catholic Campus Ministry. Now, as leaders themselves, they are showing a new generation of students how to love God and live out the vocation of married life.

Schneider is a sophomore multimedia journalism student at Virginia Tech and a parishioner of All Saints Church in Manassas.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015