Twenty-five-year-old Monet Sousa is on a mission to share the message of hope with the world. She grew up in a family culture that lived out their Catholic faith boldly and unapologetically, and through the example of her parents she learned to share the Gospel with everyone God put into her path. After studying theology and catechetics at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, she started A Message of Hope, a ministry with the aim of inspiring high school and college students to live out their faith, morals and identity. Monet spoke with Radiant about her ministry and what teens and young adults need to regain hope in our world today.
Radiant: What inspired you to found A Message of Hope?
Monet: From the moment I was asked to be a lector in the second grade, I discovered how much I enjoyed public speaking. From that moment on, I had my parents supporting me and helping me seek out public speaking opportunities. It was also in hearing Jason Evert speak at my high school that I realized my dream of public speaking could become a tangible reality. The Lord then prompted this particular ministry during the pandemic. My mom came up with the name, my brother and friends helped me with the graphic design, and my dad has been my editor and videographer for two years.
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Radiant: How does A Message of Hope encourage and provide the resources for “a lifestyle worth living”?
The ministry can be found on three social-media platforms: YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. The YouTube channel is like a talk show, and I bring on different guests. We cover topics from why it is important to avoid the hookup culture, to how to start discerning your vocation. There is always an underlying theme of faith and hope. Every other month on Instagram (@amhlifestyles), I have a week of hope where I bring on seven young adult guests for seven different days of the week to talk about how they live out their faith. And recently, in April, our hope-based apparel line launched!
While it started out as a virtual ministry, it is feeding into an in-person ministry as well. Over the past year, I have been doing public speaking throughout the week, leading retreats, emceeing events and giving talks to Newman centers and theology classes.
Radiant: Did you ever struggle with the way your parents implemented the Faith? Was there a specific moment in your life when you felt you had made your faith your own?
Monet: Growing up I didn’t enjoy going to Mass, praying the Rosary or [praying] before bed. My brother and I did it because we were told to, but I didn’t necessarily understand why. The reasons were very law and commandment based. It wasn’t until I was totally stripped of friendship and community when I was in high school that I had to fall on a relationship with God. I was a junior and alone on the weekends because my friends stopped inviting me, because I wasn’t going to parties and drinking with them.
Around that time, my brother discovered LifeTeen, and while I refused to go for almost a year, I finally went at the end of my junior year. There I was immersed with like-minded individuals, and the core team was unbelievable. Someone finally told me why we do what we do as Catholics. That year was a huge turning point for my faith, and I more fully understood that it was Jesus I was going to see at Mass and adoration.
Radiant: How were your parents witnesses of the Faith for you?
Monet: My parents have a ministry right out of our house, and my dad created a space big enough to hold 70 people on a monthly basis for coming together to pray the Rosary and have healing Masses. They have said yes to one another in marriage, yes to life through having my brother and I, and yes again by their ministry. I really admire what they are doing and am in awe of who they have impacted over the years.
Radiant: What kinds of struggles do you see high schoolers and college students going through right now?
Monet: Both groups are definitely struggling with loneliness, and everyone seems to be in an identity crisis. A Message of Hope stands on the pillars of faith, morality and identity, because those were the three things I struggled with both in high school and college.
Over the past year, I’ve been leading middle school and high school retreats on the topic of friendship with Christ. That’s the common theme that high school and middle school students seem to need right now. So many don’t know who Jesus is. The college age group seems to really be struggling with the idea of trusting in a God who allows suffering.
Radiant: Does A Message of Hope have any patrons?
Monet: Our two patrons are St. Padre Pio and St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
Every single semester of college, I wanted to drop out, but every single time my mom would send me the quotation by St. Padre Pio: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” She was always reaching her hand out to me through his words, and I want to be that hand of hope for others who are struggling and about to give up.
St. Thérèse is a patron because she has always been a huge advocate for me. Whenever I asked for her intercession with this ministry, doors opened immediately.
Radiant: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Monet: Whether you go to a Catholic school or not, you are going to be challenged in your faith. It can be hard. After all, I lost all those friends and social groups in high school. Even in college I found myself on different pages with other people regarding faith and politics. Yes, you may become an outcast for your faith in certain circles. But stay close to God and other communities that are staying close to him as well. This will help get you through.
Also, if you don’t see something done well in the Catholic Church, don’t leave, but rather stay and create something. I didn’t see enough ministries available to help me hold true to my faith, morals and identity. I only had my parents and my brother to encourage me. So many people are surprised I didn’t leave the Church, but I just tell them that I don’t want to give up on her, because she’s not giving up on me. That’s why I created A Message of Hope. I wanted to offer something to others that I never received.
It is also super important for women to reclaim their femininity and stay with the Church. She speaks into our womanhood so beautifully.