As time goes on, so many of the pieces come together. It’s only in retrospect that I can see just how long God has been working in my heart and in my life to bring VM here. For the sake of keeping it brief here is the logistical aspect of how it all began (sections taken from an article written by Emily Shaw, Sep 2017).
I was in a period of my life where everything was smooth sailing. I had moved out to Australia on my own, independent, in a committed relationship. But I had found myself having the same conversations with a variety of different people when it came to romantic relationships and dating.
I stumbled upon one of Sarah Swafford’s earliest talks, back in the day when she was standing behind a podium, talking from her notes. A lot of what she spoke about, intuitively made sense, but it also started to click in my head as to why I was seeing the patterns and having the same reoccurring conversations.
Swafford, who advocates for ‘Emotional Virtue’ in the United States, would later play a bigger role in the genesis of Virtue Ministry. But at this moment in time her talk was a once off, and I didn’t go searching for more.
Then as life does, it took a rapid turn. The long-term relationship I was in came to an end, and my future in Australia was also in jeopardy. I found myself asking all the questions surrounding who I am, and what my purpose is. A rushed trip to New Zealand in order to re-secure a visa to live in Australia, proved an excellent situation to spend time petitioning Heaven, not only to return but also to attend the parish mission at my local Cathedral that I had helped to organise.
That mission proved a turning point. Every evening I had virtue, virtue, VIRTUE screaming at me from the pulpit, and every evening my heart took a deeper plunge into his trusting arms. May 19, 2014, I accepted the Virtue Challenge for the first time and intentionally focused on building traits of virtue, particularly around femininity, confidence and commitment (which co-incidentally were the same traits that Sarah Swafford was advocating for). I had an incredible accountability partner, but I knew myself well enough to know, I needed to raise the bar to ensure I made it through to the end. I chose to make the challenge public. Anyone, who knew me, knew I had embarked on the challenge, and they were all invited to keep me accountable.
Towards the end of the challenge, which lasted 43 weeks, a few friends and I embarked on a ‘Yes Year’. This was an initiative to discern and say yes to everything God puts in our path, to have the courage and faith the way our Lady did at the Annunciation. This was a way to lead a prayerful & intentional life, but also a year of pushing our boundaries and trusting in God’s plan for our lives.
As a result I attended a 10 day training session by All.U.Re and presented a talk on my role model, Sarah Swafford from the Chastity Project. Before which I had received Swafford’s permission and blessing to present on her work. All the girls were astounded by the content. They all wished they had of heard this before. The words ‘If I had of known, I would have made different choices’ really left a mark. When you hear that kind of feedback, and you know you have something, you know, you can no longer keep it for yourself. You have to give it.
The challenge ended in Holy Week 2015 but afterwards as I continued to prayer and discern, I felt moved to take these tiny baby ideas that had been planted to a couple of my friends whom were far better versed in the Christian faith than I. Not only did they push and pull at the ideas, but they helped it grow. Within weeks, something new was well and truly awake and moving.
After some time, with Swafford’s endorsement, and our local Church’s spiritual support, Virtue Ministry was launched on September 8th, 2016, and our first speaking engagements involved presenting at a training weekend, to seminarians and at an all girl’s retreat. Since then, we have had a number of talks and workshops to senior primary school students, high school students, and young adults, in classrooms, at youth groups, conferences, and retreats across NSW, Australia. We also had the pleasure of speaking at ACYF17 (Australian Catholic Youth Festival) in Sydney.
Fast forward to 2022, six years later the VM team has grown and been blessed with wonderful individuals with many talents and abilities, from presenters to graphic designers. Each of our team members prioritise first their personal relationship with Christ, followed by their primary calling and striving to grow in virtue (See VM team section for more).
Virtue Ministry was launched as a Christian initiative with a mission to guide people into discovering who they were uniquely made to be. As the need for this message grows, so does the need for our team to expand. As such we’re always on the look out for suitable people to join the team so make yourself known if you’re interested.
Our mission is only made possible through prayer and practice, self-knowledge and relationships, character and lifestyle. Becoming someone, no one else in all of creation can ever repeat. Someone who will move the world. Someone capable of Christ-like love. A Virtuous son and daughter. That is our mission for every person, because that is at the heart of us all.
My love and prayers assured,
Stina was born and raised a Norwegian and completed her Bachelor of Psychology and Master of Social Work in Australia. She is a Family & Relationship Counsellor (individuals, couples and children), and the former Young Female City Ambassador (Miss Wagga Wagga 2019) for Wagga Wagga, NSW. Stina also works with separated families and supporting TAFE NSW Students through their Education.