Loneliness to Holiness

Filling the Jesus-Shaped Hole in My Heart

By Anna Donnelly

At the end of my sophomore year of high school, I attended a POP YEM Challenge retreat. It was the first retreat I’d ever been on, and my first encounter with Adoration, confession, and peers who were passionate about their faith. It changed my life, but I didn’t know how to continue on the path to holiness at the time. Junior year, I decided to join the Challenge retreat team on the Gopher Cook/Prayer Staff. It was through praying with the rest of the team that weekend that I truly learned that being in a close relationship with Christ is possible, because I saw the rest of the team doing it all around me.

Throughout my entire childhood, I struggled with loneliness. I had plenty of friends, but everyone else seemed to have a distinct best friend that I didn’t seem to have. Every movie that I watched or book that I read featured a best friend to the main character, and even the friends I had at school had someone to call a “best” friend. I didn’t have one person to whom I could tell everything or call at a moment’s notice to go on adventures with. This caused me to search for that best friend through everything I could think of: romantic relationships and toxic friendships, to name a couple. I tried my hardest to be cool and popular, thinking that if only everyone liked me, someone would want to be my best friend.

Throughout that weekend on Gopher Staff, the Lord revealed to me that He wanted to be my best friend. I had been trying to fill the Jesus-shaped hole in my heart, but I hadn’t known to look at Jesus until that weekend. The road from then on was not easy, and I found myself struggling often. It was hard to believe that Jesus, who was perfect, wanted to love my imperfect and fallen self. It didn’t make sense at first that He could be my best friend when I couldn’t even hug Him. For the rest of high school and a bit into college, I didn’t know how to let the Lord in, when I didn’t even have a good example of human trust and good friendship. It wasn’t until sophomore year of college that I really began to trust Jesus to that level of friendship that I craved. It was then that I had two great friends who showed me, little by little, that holy friendship is possible, but only when you are friends with Christ first.

It is only through this friendship with Christ that I am now able to have true earthly friendships. It has changed how I relate to people, whether they are complete strangers who I only see once, or close friends I see every day. It is through our friendship that Jesus allows me to know Him in a personal way. He is wild and spontaneous, kind and joyful, a great listener and a lover of jokes! Also, I am excited to be joining the Dominicans of St. Cecilia to discern a vocational call to become a bride of Christ Himself. 

Without Prince of Peace, I never would have been able to have those first experiences that showed me that a personal relationship with Jesus is not only something that is possible, but desirable, and something that I had been longing for throughout my entire life.

Prince of Peace is one of the places that I and many other people have found community, and that community has successfully changed my life. I have found friends who have taught me about prayer, faith, and striving for virtue throughout crazy high school and college schedules. POP is and always will be my home, no matter where God leads me next.

This photo of the talk staff at Challenge retreat 2015 is during Anna Donnelly’s senior year of high school.

This photo of the talk staff at Challenge retreat 2015 is during Anna Donnelly’s senior year of high school.


This photo of Anna Donnelly is an accurate representation of how she feels to be discerning the beautiful call to be a bride of Christ Himself.

This photo of Anna Donnelly is an accurate representation of how she feels to be discerning the beautiful call to be a bride of Christ Himself.


Anna Donnelly is with the two friends mentioned in her testimony, Kenzie and Jared, who are still two of her closest friends to this day.

Anna Donnelly is with the two friends mentioned in her testimony, Kenzie and Jared, who are still two of her closest friends to this day.

Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure!
— St. Pope John Paul II

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Rebecca KunkelComment