Currently serving her third year on mission in Bolivia, Kitzi Hendricks will be sharing her experiences of community in a multi-part series that begins today as she recalls her participation in a formative faith group before she became a lay Franciscan missioner: Creighton University’s Candlelight Choir!

“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities, but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant, is close to us in spirit…this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.”—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I’ve always been attracted to small communities—communities in which each member is a recognized and valued presence, communities in which the experience of sharing with one another is spiritual in itself, communities in which each member has a voice that is admired and heard, communities in which the members greet each other by name and with a smile.

Fr. Richard Hauser, S.J., and Kitzi at Creighton University (photo provided by Kitzi)
Even when I was young, my idea of faith experience, spirituality, and church came from the families that shared in my family’s small faith community—a group of families that met a few times a month to eat, converse, play, and share faith in a variety of ways. I am so grateful that my mom and dad brought me into such an active faith community at a young age because when I found myself responsible for finding and becoming a part of communities years later, I searched for that unique, personal spiritual attraction.
I found it at both St. Francis High School (an incredible all-girls Catholic high school in Sacramento, California) and at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska (thanks to Fr. Hauser, the candlelight Mass, my candlelight choir family, and the students who participated every Sunday night).

I don’t think I could have anticipated the unique community that I entered when I started attending the candlelight Mass every Sunday at 10 p.m. I remember sitting in my first Mass and being invited to join around the altar during the Mass parts and the consecration of the Eucharist. Still a little hesitant, I followed the small herd of college students to the front and joined in the circle.

Sunday night Mass at Creighton University with Fr. Hauser, S.J. (photo provided by Fr. Don Doll, S.J.)

When I lifted my head up, my entire body reacted to the strong emotions that I felt in that moment. There were about 70 young college students with their hands clasped in front of them and their bright faces looking towards Fr. Hauser at the altar, all shoulder-to-shoulder in the form of a familiar circle. Goosebumps. And then the student-run choir began to sing the Our Father…and I knew.

“This is it,” I said to myself, “This is the community that I never knew I was missing, and one day I’m going to be a part of that beautiful music.”

At the end of my sophomore year, I entered into the candlelight choir community–a community which I now consider my family.

The Creighton University Candlelight Choir (photo provided by Kitzi)

And over the following two years, the candlelight family grew, and the relationships deepened, and our faith was shared in a way that has influenced where I am today, who I am today, and how I originally arrived at Franciscan Mission Service. And as time passes and I have moved across hemispheres, we are still a community, and we support each other from far away.

When I went back to the states in July 2013 and stopped by Creighton, I was able to grab lunch with Fr. Hauser and with my good friend Maggie (whom I chose as the director of the choir when I left Creighton).

Maggie and Kitzi (photo provided by Kitzi)

They have been two of my greatest spiritual and emotional supporters, regardless of how often we are able to see each other or catch up through emails or Skype. The community that we formed keeps growing stronger and new students are invited to join that community every single day. It is their example of faith, support and true friendship that kept me going for my first two years in Bolivia, until I found a community in the neighborhood of Nueva Vera Cruz that called to me in the same way.