December 4, 2020

Young woman’s struggles lead her to strive to bring hope and healing to others

Photo: St. Joan of Arc parishioner Perry Langley’s story of faith and transformation began as a teenager at a “Consumed” retreat that especially touched and changed her. (Submitted photo courtesy of Andrea Kuhn Photography)

Photo: St. Joan of Arc parishioner Perry Langley’s story of faith and transformation began as a teenager at a “Consumed” retreat that especially touched and changed her. (Submitted photo courtesy of Andrea Kuhn Photography)

Fourth in an occasional series

(Editor’s note: In this series, The Criterion will feature young adults who have found a home in the Church and strive to live their faith in their everyday life.)
 

By John Shaughnessy

At 29, Perry Langley has a heart for people who are vulnerable or broken.

She also has an understanding that being vulnerable or broken describes most of us in some way, at some point in our lives.

Langley identifies with teenagers who struggle, knowing from personal experience that “life for teens is just plain hard sometimes.”

While she is single, her work with people whose lives have been shattered by divorce has developed her deep compassion for them.

And her recent decision to pursue a nursing degree reflects her desire to be there for others whose pain and suffering can be physical, mental and emotional.

Yet even with all her compassion, there has sometimes been the challenge of finding a foundation that can help her heal others and attain peace in her own life, too.

She believes she has found it.

“For me, it’s very simple: If God is who he says he is, we can trust that he is more powerful than our sins, failings and the darkness that inevitably comes in life,” she says. “We can trust that he is the same God who offered himself on the cross more than 2,000 years ago; the same God who pulls us out of the mess and the muck of our lives, just as he did for me as a teenager.”

It’s where her story of faith and transformation begins.

‘I jumped in head-first’

“I grew up going to Mass every Sunday, but it wasn’t until I was a teen that I really met Jesus Christ for the first time,” she says.

“It was also in those years that I really struggled—just because life for teens is just plain hard sometimes. Trying to navigate the pressure of being an honors student, extracurriculars, boys, friendships and the like, can be trying.

“What I know now and what I didn’t realize then was that I probably was struggling with some undiagnosed mental health issues and didn’t have the language to describe what was going on in my head and my heart. By the grace of God, I have received incredible healing since that time.”

She credits part of her healing to being welcomed into the youth group at her parish at the time, St. John the Apostle in Bloomington. One experience especially touched and changed her.

“I went on a retreat as a teen that was called ‘Consumed,’ ” she recalls. “It was on that first retreat that I met Jesus Christ in the Eucharist for the first time and understood who he was. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, that he loved me, and that he wanted a personal relationship with me.

“I left that retreat completely on fire for Christ, wanting to chase after him with everything I had, which wasn’t much for a 14-year-old kid. I jumped in head-first, and my heart was the Lord’s from then on. Or should I say, the Lord continued to pursue me daily, and I found myself coming back to him again and again.”

During that time, she started participating in daily Mass more frequently. And every time she received Communion, she experienced “genuine joy and peace.”

“The burdens I was carrying began to feel that much lighter, even though life still had its ups and downs,” she says. “My youth minister and youth group friends encouraged me in my walk with Christ, as we all became a part of a small faith community that was pursuing an authentic relationship with Christ.”

That pursuit continued for her when she attended Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., finding her new faith home at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish there.

“It was there, at St. Tom’s, that I was given the skills to have a consistent daily prayer life,” notes the 2014 graduate of Purdue. “I continued to go to daily Mass, read my Bible, and spent time in the quiet of our tiny campus chapel.

“My relationship with Christ flourished and became intertwined with every aspect of my life. Even now, as a 29-year-old college graduate, I find myself still longing for that deep intimacy with Christ.”

‘God gives me opportunities’

Seeking that deep connection with Christ has also led to her deepening concern for others—a quality first instilled in her by her parents as she was growing up.

“They were kind, understanding, patient, and they advocated for the downtrodden of society,” says Langley, now a member of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Indianapolis. “My mom spent time praying with me, talking to me about social justice issues in the faith, taking me to daily Mass, and educating me on who God was in my life.”

She has used her own gifts of faith, kindness and understanding to help people who are divorced. For more than three years, she has served as an advocate in the archdiocese’s Metropolitan Tribunal, which primarily helps Catholics in central and southern Indiana seeking an annulment. She works one-on-one with people, advising them in their cases.

“What I have found is that God gives me opportunities to minister to very broken people every day: people who have experienced grief, loss, judgment, and who often live in shame because of a divorce that they—usually—never imagined would take place.

“While I have never experienced divorce personally, God has gifted me with a great capacity for compassion and a desire to help people. He has allowed me to use these gifts in a unique way: to attempt to bring my clients hope and to encourage reconciliation and healing in their lives through the sacraments.”

Langley now wants to bring hope and healing to others through a career as a registered nurse. She plans to start her nursing education in January.

“Just as I experienced a call to work at the tribunal, it is clear to me that God is calling me in this direction. As providence would have it, nursing will play upon many of the gifts that I use at the tribunal.”

She considers a nursing career as another part of her journey to her ultimate destination.

“Our time on Earth is not a given, and we aren’t meant to be here forever,” she says. “Heaven is our forever home, which means that our time here on Earth should be spent with our eyes fixed on heaven, living our lives in a way that will help us to get to our final goal: being with God forever in eternity.” †

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