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Conversations on Faith


Missioner-in-training Nate Mortenson talks about journeying through mission formation together with his wife Mary. The couple is preparing to go to Bolivia in January. 

Mary Mortenson, as photographed by Nate Mortenson

Mary and I got away for our weekly date-night on Tuesday. They’ve become pretty important for us living in the residential community with other missioners and volunteers.

We rode our bikes over to a place Mary wanted to try out and ordered a bite to eat. The food was tasty, the place was nice, but more importantly it was a good chance for us to process through where each of us are. On this particular night we talked about faith. It actually brought to mind faith conversations we often had when we first met.

Mary grew up in a Lutheran tradition, and I grew up Catholic, so this was usually a big part of our discussion. Because of who she is — naturally more inquisitive — I was forced to really dig down and stumble through my explanations from a Catholic perspective. It was good for me to become more analytical; it was a challenge for me.

Nowadays our conversations about faith have reversed.

Mary ends up doing a lot of explaining to me, about all the beauty she sees in the Catholic Church. I watch her deeply engage with our teachers in class and realize this process for her is actually teaching me a lot about my own spirituality. By no persuasion of mine she surprises me with a deeper knowledge of the Catholic faith than I would have anticipated.

I’m really thankful for this time in formation. We have time for these conversations. Mary and I talk about our faith, wonder about things, and make discoveries together.

Mary and Nate recently returned from two years of mission at the rural Carmen Pampa University in Bolivia.

Nate, the youngest son of nine, hails from La Cross, Wisconsin. Mary grew up picking strawberries in small-town Minnesota. The couple met at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, where Mary studied sociology and outdoor leadership and Nate studied Spanish and geology. They share a passion for food and bicycling, and a desire to set their marriage on a foundation of service, simplicity, and a deeper global understanding.