By Grace Lawler

Matej Molčányi is an LCI alum (2019- 2020) from Vel’aty, Slovakia. He is currently an intern with Franciscan University in Gaming, Austria, and an online student of Catholic University of Slovakia. My phone interview with Matej began while he was in the car running errands for the university. We immediately delved into discussing his experience with LCI and how it all came to be.

Matej first came to Gaming on his 18th birthday with his father. “I didn’t want to go at first… but once I arrived, I was overwhelmed by the beauty.” That visit to Gaming made Matej want to go back and study at LCI. “God gave me a strong desire to go there… like it was where I was meant to be.” It also made him see a practical side of studying English. During the visit he couldn’t communicate well with the Americans. It motivated him to study more.

Matej remembered approaching his LCI year with no particular expectations, but with an overall excitement. He spoke of meeting CMC missionaries (including yours truly) at an English summer camp in Slovakia, and how hearing them talk about their experiences with LCI and the Kartause increased his anticipation of going there himself.

Once he was in Gaming as an LCI student, the environment, schedule, and people affected him greatly in multiple ways. At first, he saw the effects of being able to improve his English and create friendships with his American roommates. Matej said he learned a lot about himself through conversations with the students, CMC missionaries, and Father Joseph Veresh. But Matej also realized how being an LCI student had been affecting his spiritual life. “It pushed me out of my comfort zone – like daily Mass or 7am adoration. When you have a Catholic community [that] prays together it is something I love.” He added, “[The] American students were more faithful than my peers back in Slovakia and their witness challenged me.”

When asked if he had seen God at work during his year at LCI, Matej responded with “Absolutely.” He continued, “I saw [God] in my personal spiritual growth for sure. I became more grounded in Jesus, I became a better Catholic, I became a more faithful person I dare say. I became more consistent in prayer, and I began seeing God more in nature and in people.”

Looking back at his favorite memories of LCI, he fondly remembers the communal prayers, the LCI retreat, common dinners, and going on hikes. I asked if his LCI experience was still affecting him a year later, he laughed saying, “Well yes, because I came back to Gaming [as an intern]. I wouldn’t be having this amazing experience if not for LCI.”

As our conversation was coming to an end, I asked Matej what he wanted people to know about LCI. He thought for a moment and said, “It is a blessing. I feel like it was an undeserved gift from God… I believe [LCI] is an important program. The American students can learn so much from people from Eastern Europe, Asia and around the world because there are so many differences. For example, I am Byzantine Catholic. There are a lot of differences between us, but I know that we can learn from each other. We can enrich each other.”

I complimented Matej on using the word “enrich.” We laughed and continued to chat and catch-up. He got back to the Kartause and I could hear the gravel under his feet and American voices as he made his way to the sports field to watch the frisbee game. We assured each other of our prayers for one another and said goodbye. I hung up smiling, thinking of Matej continuing to have amazing, fun, and powerful God-given experiences at his now, second home. All made possible through LCI. May we see blessings in our life as Matej sees LCI – as underserved gifts from God.