Editor’s Note: Return Missioner, Amanda Ceraldi, shares how love has bloomed in vulnerable conversations with students at Catholic University of America.

The box of tissues on my desk is almost empty.  My office couch has been occupied by countless students.  If the walls of my office could talk, they would tell you stories of heartbreak, pain, loss, and so much more.  In the months since I started my job as an associate campus minister at Catholic University, I have spent the majority of my time meeting with students.  Some days, that means coffee or lunch dates, where we share life updates and funny stories. On others, it’s listening to stories of broken hearts and struggles with family or friends.  But every day is one where love blooms.

Amanda serving on mission in Guatemala.

During the first week of the school year, and only six weeks into my new position, I stood outside of the main student center on campus with a group of four students sharing stories about my time on mission in Guatemala.  For two hours, these students (who I had never met) heard all about my favorite children, the funny moments of my time at Valley of the Angels, and my love for Saturday mornings spent in the garden. I shared with them the most personal story of my time on mission: my experience of heaven on earth.  These four students allowed me to be my most authentic self; they allowed me to share some of my most vulnerable moments and open a piece of myself.

When those four students gave me the space to be vulnerable, I made a promise to myself to be a person who creates the space for others to be vulnerable.  I want people to come to me as they are, to share the most vulnerable pieces of their heart, to enter in to a relationship where love blooms. And that is exactly what has happened.  I have entered in to relationships with students where we can mutually be our most authentic selves, where we can share our deepest hopes, and where love blooms in vulnerability.

It turns out that when we dare to be vulnerable with others, they feel safe being vulnerable in return.  The box of tissues on my desk is almost empty. My office couch has been occupied by countless students. If the walls of my office could talk they would tell you stories of heartbreak, pain, loss, and so much more.  But even more than that, the walls of my office could tell you stories of joy, hope, love, and so much more. Love blooms…in vulnerability.

Reflection Question: In what ways can you integrate more intentional and vulnerable conversations into your daily routine?