Gratitude for the Church, My Home - A Letter from Dennise

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Dear Sisters, 

On the move again, boxes filled with “home”, bare walls, empty closets, eating out of to-go-boxes… all to the unknown.  As I write this, I would have lived in 11 homes in my life, and somehow even though it is not something new, it offers a different “scary-anxious filled-uncertainty” about it. I step foot into my reality of being plucked from my comforts, removed from my circle of sisterhood and friendships, and forced to find a new normal.  I reflect on the fear Sarah may have had when Abraham told her that God spoke to him and said to pack up and leave to the unknown. I can’t fathom how difficult their journey would have been, how treacherous their terrain was, and how going back to the home they left wouldn’t be an option—even if Sarah didn’t like it.  Yet, the promise to us by our faithfulness to God can extend beyond ourselves and our comforts all by trusting God in our hesitation of letting Him lead us on an unfamiliar road. Why do I always give God boundaries in my life?  Imagine what He could do with us if we allowed Him to work freely!  

In desperation to find God amidst this moving chaos I turn to what Jesus himself said to rely on because He would always be there to guide her… His Church.  There is something so frightening about being the new kid on the block, but also beautiful knowing wherever you are in the world there is a home a few miles away, speaking your language (even if the language is different), offering the same sacrifice of the mass (how incredible that heaven and earth touch in this moment), pouring out graces (because we can’t do anything on our own), and feeding us with the same Jesus (receiving Him in the most intimate way).  There is always home in a new home, and I am thankful that Jesus knew we would need that.  

Thanksgiving week allows us the opportune time to reflect on things that give us life even when life changes around us.  I remember the move (Page 2) before this one, I was 7 months pregnant— emotional – and went in search of a Church because that would at least be the same.  When mass began I soon realized the mass response changes were being implemented that Sunday!  How funny is our God to kick us out of our comforts offering us moments of hilarity so that we give each opportunity a fair chance? I often like to think about Mary in these moments, and how she pondered all things she did not understand in her heart.  Not questioning. Not doubting. Not having regret.  But pondering what God was trying to teach her in these moments. God is always trying to grow us into the people He knows us to be in heaven—if we consider this before reacting—could you imagine how different it would be?    

So, this Thanksgiving I am thankful for new beginnings, friends, sisterhoods, and the Church family.  Like Sarah who went fearlessly with her husband to the unknown, or Mary who did not doubt that God was with her from the Annunciation to the assumption—to thank him for the “hiccups” in life — and asking for help to remove the boundaries I give Him to work within me.  Lastly, I am thankful for the gift of His church because in unknown places I know home and my God can always be found there, and when I am feeling unsure and anxious I will find the grace to be fearless just like Sarah and Mary!

Happy Thanksgiving, Sisters! 

-Dennise

"The world is thy ship and not thy home." St. Therese of Lisieux 


Get to know Dennise

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Dennise Santos

I am a wife of 14 years, a mother of 3 earthly babies and 1 in heaven. Military wife. Cradled Catholic.  A lover of Jesus and devoted daughter to our Mama Mary!  I am from Guam but for the last 14 years have called many countries home.  I feel blessed to have been able to travel the world with the people I love the most!  I feel that wherever I go; there is so much work to be done as the hands and feet of Christ!  

What do the first two hours of your day look like? 

I’d like to say the first thing I do is prayer, but its coffee and then prayer.  I am currently doing a devotional to the Divine Mercy and that has been my “cup runneth over” fuel to get through my day.  When the kids wake, it is non-stop from there! 

Describe your favorite part of your current occupation.

Currently, I am a stay-at-home mom and an avid volunteer at church and at my children’s school.  When I moved from California I left a job I loved, I was the Religious Education Coordinator and Women Lay Lead for our PM study group. In ministry, it is so easy to be a part of everything, and while I loved what I did, this move has really opened my eyes on how to say no. (Jesus said NO many times, we should take His lead). In my heart I feel that God was calling me back, asking me to stop and rest in Him.  So today—what is my favorite part of my current occupation it is rediscovering God in this season in my life.  He is so generous and so patient with me.

Describe one fear or personal challenge that keeps you up at night. 

The world we live in today.  I was snuggled in bed when the Route 91 tragedy occurred just a little over 10 miles from where we live.  My heart is so unsettled (like many) by the tragedies occurring weeks and months in between.  There isn’t a specific fear, or one that I could name, but the restlessness in my heart comes from, how do we change this? As a mom who knows that if we go the same route we have been, our children will witness even more devastation.  So deep in the core of my heart, we change by loving one another (1John 4:11)--- it starts at home (St. Mother Teresa)—and do not be afraid (John 14:27).

Tell us about the first time you experienced a strong sense of belonging in the church.

Confirmation. I feel like I always had a deep love for our Church, but on Confirmation night all that I have been a witness to and learned through the years connected in that moment. As cliché as it sounds, I felt the Holy Spirit overcome me, and I knew I was the Church (we all are the church). Not too long after Confirmation, I attended the World Youth Day in Rome. What a life-changing moment for me!  I always knew that our church was big and universal, but to hear all of us praying in our own native tongue, joyfully cheering as our Shepherd JP2 entered the crowd-- crazy-excited-teenagers on fire!  In that moment I knew this is what Jesus intended, this is Home. 

Tell us about a woman you look up to! 

My Grandmother Dolores.  I know she is a Saint!  She lost her mom and sister at a young age, so she took on the mother role for her family (dad and brothers).  She was in WW2, only finished up to the 3rd grade in school, had 14 kids but only 9 lived after birth, but she still managed to be faithful to God and raise a devout Catholic family.  She was diagnosed with cancer, but decided that she would forego any treatment to live the rest her life to the fullest without the pain of treatment and medication.  When we would cry knowing that one day she would expire from it, her response was always “Don’t cry, I know my God, and I know where I will go!”.  During the preparation of her death, she picked out everything!  Her dress to meet Jesus, food to serve at her funeral, clothes her children and grandchildren would wear, the 3 priests that would preside at her mass, and songs that our family would sing her into heaven.  Her faith is one I hope to have one day because she did this with no study book—nor a 30-day devotional—but she just knew Jesus and our Mother… and she always hoped against hope.

Favorite character ever. Go!

My favorite character would be Anne with an E of Green Gables, but since that is a favorite for many I do have another one to share. I loved Pollyanna growing up (with Hayley Mills). She was a ball of fire who went against the rigid and uptight crowd especially when she felt something deep down in her heart was the right thing to do. Moments when she felt like she shouldn't speak up; she couldn't stay silent and turn a blind eye. I find that true in how the Holy Spirit works in us. The Holy Spirit doesn't let us stay stagnant but moves us out of our comforts!  I loved her innocence and spunk, but also her honesty and compassion for others. 


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