From a lukewarm Catholic to a Rocky Mountain missionary, a Delaware native has had quite the faith journey.
Michael Gray grew up like a lot of Catholic children in New Castle County, attending Catholic elementary and high schools. In his case, those were Our Lady of Fatima and Salesianum schools. But over the years, he ended up attending Mass only occasionally. When he was at the University of Delaware, he was not practicing his faith at all.
Once he moved to Philadelphia after graduation, he met the Sodalit priests and brothers at St. Agatha/St. James Parish, which serves the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University communities. He became friends with many parishioners. They were able to help him with questions he had that, he said, only seemed to be answered by the Catholic faith.
“They really welcomed me into that community,” Gray said.
The reunion with the Catholic Church had occurred.
“The story is like a crazy breakup. I realized I only had my faith, and I could only put my faith in God. I just fell deeper and deeper in love with my Catholic faith,” he said.
Fast forward a bit to last August, and Gray, 24, learned about Creatio, which describes its mission as guiding people “to the beauty of creation and the Creator through service to the poor, mission trips, outdoor adventure and care for creation.” He was interested, and when the organization had some openings over the winter, he signed up. Since late January, he has been living in Denver, and his work with Creatio began on Feb. 1. He became a Catholic missionary and is listed on the organization’s website as a missionary guide.
“We jumped right in. The new missionaries, they had stuff for us to do,” he said recently from Colorado. We’re already doing a lot of charity work. Every Wednesday, we go have lunch with the homeless in the park.”
Some of Gray’s early work included leading two men’s excursions. One was to Moab, Utah, and the other was a day hike into the Rocky Mountains. They do a lot of charity work, including having lunch with Denver’s homeless every Wednesday.
“If you would have told me I’d be living in Denver as a Catholic missionary a year or two ago, I would have never believed you. But it’s been great to bring people together. We can all grow in our faith together. It’s really a beautiful thing,” Gray said.
The excursions have a bit of a group element to them, he explained. They bring up certain spiritual topics, but much of that work is done in one-on-one settings as the participants are getting to know one another. Sometimes, those individual discussions lead to larger theological or philosophical talks.
The mission trips that have a more organized spiritual discussion will start back up in the summer, he said. Gray is hopeful to travel to Italy for one this summer, but that is dependent on COVID restrictions in the country.
Gray said his family, which includes a brother and sister who are twins, wasn’t sure about his decision to join Creatio until he explained it to them. They have always been supportive of his decisions but were a bit scared about him having to fundraise his own salary.
Asking people to help support his work was “a great opportunity to grow.
“It was a very formative two months of fundraising. You’ve got to get punched in the stomach and then get right back up. There’s no time to wallow.”
He had to raise enough money for his first year, but the commitment to Creatio is for two. The process of securing his own salary doesn’t stop, he said.
As the second year of his mission near its end, Gray will have to decide if he wants to sign on for another hitch. He is not trying to get too far ahead of himself, however. He did say that even if he remains only for the initial two years, it will not end his commitment to the church.
“My whole life, I want to be involved with Catholic communities and building the communities that allow people to come to know God in a more deep and profound way,” he said.
To contact Gray for more information or to support his mission, email email@example.com.