About the episode:
This episode features Monét Souza, founder of the Catholic ministry A Message of Hope. In this conversation, Monét shares her faith journey, her love for public speaking and desire to be a Catholic speaker, how she came to start A Message of Hope in the midst of a global pandemic, her time teaching, and how she desires to emulate the holiness of Mother Mary through her life and ministry.
Listen to this week's episode:
Meet Monét Souza
Monét Souza is a recent graduate of Franciscan University who founded A Message of Hope during her final semester of school. Even though this decision to launch this Catholic ministry required a leap of faith, this had been a lifelong dream of Monét’s. From a young age she has been public speaking and it had always been a deep desire to become a public speaker in the Catholic realm. The idea for A Message of Hope sparked over a year ago and this is now a ministry that is dedicated to aiding high school and college students throughout their student careers, navigating friendships, relationships, and their faith. Through A Message of Hope, Monét shares her journey through remaining true to her faith, morals, and identity. Ultimately, Monét desires to let all people know through her uplifting videos of hope that you are not alone. Be sure to visit A Message of Hope’s website, amhlifestyles.com.
00:10 RACHEL WONG: This is The Feminine Genius Podcast, a podcast that celebrates all women of God and their unique genius. I'm your host, Rachel Wong.
00:32 RACHEL: When the pandemic started to sweep across the world in 2020, Monét Souza found herself wanting to share the joy and hope of Christ with other people. As an educator with a passion and talent for public speaking, Monét founded A Message of Hope, an online video series geared towards encouraging high school and college students to live out their Catholic faith. Through this platform and her work as an elementary school teacher, Monét shares this message of hope with as many people as possible through education, resources and encouragement. In this episode, Monét and I talk about her love for public speaking, her experiences and working with young minds in the classroom, and what pushed her to launch her ministry in such extraordinary circumstances.
01:27 RACHEL: Hi Monét!
01:29 MONÉT SOUZA: Hi Rachel! How are you?
01:31 RACHEL: I am well, thanks! Thank you for joining me on The Feminine Genius Podcast. I think, just before we got going, I was mentioning to you that I feel like I know you just given that I've been watching a lot of your videos! But this is really the first time that we've kind of connected face to face like this, so thank you for making the time for me today!
01:48 MONÉT: Of course, and thank you for asking me to join you! I'm so excited.
01:52 RACHEL: Awesome. Okay, so maybe for those listeners who don't know you or who don't know A Message of Hope, which we are going to talk about, can you introduce yourself and share a little bit about what you do?
02:03 MONÉT: Yes! So my name is Monét Souza. I am the founder of the Catholic ministry called A Message of Hope. And ultimately, A Message of Hope is geared towards high school and college students. I provide useful videos and useful tools on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, talking about how can you live out your faith, your morals and identity. And on top of that, I am an elementary school teacher and I also work part-time with my mom at her salon. So a whole mixture of things, but the ministry really is my focus.
02:36 RACHEL: It sounds like you do have this real gift and charism of teaching, and really educating and guiding, journeying with young people. Because it sounds like, as you've mentioned, you work with elementary school kids, maybe in your day job, and then you also have this ministry that is geared towards high school and college students. So you're working with a wide variety of people, which is really incredible.
02:59 MONÉT: Yes, thank you. I know, it's been, it's been a big blessing so no complaints.
03:04 RACHEL: Yeah! So, would you be able to share a little bit about your faith journey and how it is that you got to where you are today and what inspires you about your faith?
03:15 MONÉT: Definitely. So, the faith journey was no walk in the park whatsoever. It was definitely very difficult, especially in a world that offers something completely different than what our Catholic faith talks about, where the secular world wants you to only focus on yourself or only focus on the things that are going to just please you and feed what you want and you don't care about what others want. So there's definitely moments of that growing up of, well, I don't want to go to church, I want to do this instead. And the faith was in my life but it wasn't a priority.
So, eventually, my family, my parents especially, they started deepening their own faith life. And their faith journey started increasing so much more where they started leading my brother and I closer in the faith. And they started showing us we should not just be going to Sunday Mass, but incorporating the faith throughout the week: family rosaries, daily mass. And so, a different side of the faith started being introduced to me in middle school. And then it was in high school when, again, the focus was still on me rather than on the faith, and I joined a youth group, LifeTeen, at my parish. And that's when people around me started forming this faith more for me and started helping me understand why it is what we believe in. Then the focus slowly started changing from being on me and rather, it started being focused on Jesus. And so that's when I started living out more of faith life and a lifestyle for our Lord. That's when the desire to study theology came up, my junior year of high school.
Then as time went on the desire was, how can I keep feeding my mind and my soul with things of the faith and how can I spread this beautiful message that for some reason, I didn't start to understand until high school with people way earlier on in their faith journey. And how can I walk with them and so then it was this process of, "Okay, I'm going to college now for theology, how am I going to use this?" I transfer schools, I just... this desire of "I want to speak, I want to be a public speaker for the youth and for young adults." And then like slowly the pieces start fitting together and now thank God I'm in a position where I can have a platform to share my faith journey with others and to be able to say, "Hey, it too me a while to find my way, but here I am now still learning and still growing."
05:50 RACHEL: Mhm! And have you always been interested in public speaking like I know that sometimes I ask people that and I think that, you know, for me, I think ironically enough many people will be surprised to hear that as a kid I actually hated public speaking. And somehow, you know, we got to this place where you really can't turn me off sometimes! [laughs] So, has that always been an interest of yours or was that something that you discovered along the way?
06:17 MONÉT: I always knew it was an interest, but I didn't know it could become a career. So it was second grade, First Holy Communion, reading for the first time of mass. Then it was this reality of "Wow, that was actually kind of fun!" Put that on hold until sixth grade when I got asked to speak nationally at the Basilica [of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception] in Washington D.C., about Our Lady...
06:44 RACHEL: Oh my gosh, wow!
06:45 MONÉT: I was like, "Well, this is like, here's that excitement again within me!" And then again, kind of plateaued until high school and I became a lector at the high school I was going to and at my parish. And again, it was just like "Okay, like this is just something to do on Sundays." But then, when Jason Evert came to my high school...
07:02 RACHEL: No big deal!
07:04 MONÉT: Oh yeah, no big deal at all! But he came and he spoke, and I was like, "Wait a minute, this is his career? He goes around and he does public speaking opportunities? "And then that's when I was like, "Oh, okay." The wheels are turning. This can become a full time career, not just a hobby that I, you know, lector on Sundays.
07:23 RACHEL: Right. And that's so beautiful too because I think it's so clear that you have this gift. And not only that, you know, you recognize...
07:31 MONÉT: Thank you!
07:32 RACHEL: Oh of course, of course! Like, you recognize that you have this gift and also how you're able to integrate that into your faith journey. And like you're saying, you discovered it maybe later on in your adolescent life and now you're finding an opportunity, many opportunities, to ensure that this gift, this message of hope, so to speak, can be shared with people earlier and earlier on in their lives, which I think is incredibly important and it's such a valuable resource that you're providing for people!
08:03 MONÉT: Thank you, Rachel, I appreciate it. And it's just so beautiful, even too, like along the way it's seeing again, I wanted to be in person speaking. But of course the state of the world right now everything is very remote. But to even come across ministry pages like yourself, and then seeing what everyone else is doing around the world is just amazing. And that is what also gives me hope and keeps fueling myself up of "Okay, there's a large Catholic presence, even on Instagram!" And so yeah, even the work that you're doing this really amazing.
08:40 RACHEL: Thank you!
08:41 MONÉT: You're welcome!
08:42 RACHEL: And just to jump off of that, like you know virtual ministry, and I was going through your website the other day, and we'll be sure to link it in the episode description just so that people can check it out. But I did notice that you had started A Message of Hope in 2020. So, you know, I am cognizant of the fact that something like a podcast or a YouTube video, it has a life of its own and it can live on. So perhaps there might come a time where people will listen to this and be like, "2020? That was the year of COVID-19!" So of course, there must have been a variety of things that have led you to start A Message of Hope, but in light of everything that had been going on, I guess like why now?
09:25 MONÉT: So, when I started A Message of Hope, I was also in the midst of finishing my last semester of college. And so it was definitely a lot of moving pieces at the same time. But again, even though I started realizing in high school, I could become a speaker and have that be a full time career, I didn't think myself worthy. And so I kept putting it off, putting it off, putting it off.
And so as this past year at Franciscan University I had a lot of good signs and good priests coming up to me saying, "Monét, you need to start something with public speaking." They would hear me lector at mass and then come up to me afterwards and say, "Are you doing something with this?" And like, "I kind of have an idea, I'm just apprehensive to start it," you know? Like the devil definitely seeps in, and he definitely seeped into my mind, fed me all these lies that I wasn't going to do a good job, that this was an unrealistic desire and dream. And so I allowed him to just run rampant in my mind for a long time.
And so once the pandemic hit—so actually, my first semester, so in the fall—I had written during my class periods... If any of my professors are listening, I'm sorry but I was not paying attention in class! I would write down episode names, content. I was getting the ball rolling. I had about 15 episodes where we're just sitting in the back of my notebooks. And then when the pandemic hit both my parents were out of work, like most people, and my dad's a photographer, and my mom's a hairdresser. Very loudly the Lord said, "Look what I'm providing you with right now! What else do you want me to do, to provide you the perfect time to start this?" So when my dad started filming for me and my mom started doing hair and makeup. So it was just a perfect trio of people to help start this because I can't do this on my own. No one can do a ministry on their own but to have, especially the support of my parents at the start of this, was a huge help.
11:30 RACHEL: Wow, that is such a gift! Just as you're saying you know your mom as a hairdresser and your dad doing photography. Because I know that whenever I watch your videos, that's really the first thing that comes to mind is just, this is professional stuff, and it is done extraordinary well! And I think to hear the beautiful fact that it is like, it's not just you know your mission—of course it was something that was inspired in you, by God—but now you're able to bring that into your family and it's a family mission. And in many ways, you know, how your parents had really taken that opportunity to deepen their faith in order to extend that to you and your brother. You know, you now have another layer to go deeper with your parents as well as you're doing this so that's really fun. I love that!
12:18 MONÉT: Yes, it is!
12:20 RACHEL: And just the fact too that you mentioned something there—and I'm sorry I'm trying to [laughs] trying to like wrap my head around the beauty of this! You had mentioned how you felt unworthy. And I feel that no matter what ministry of what area like podcasts or videos, or even starting a very inspirational Instagram feed for example. Many times, women especially I feel like we struggle with not feeling worthy. So what were the some of the things that helps you to get out of that space, or even help to really defeat the devil and be like, "Listen, I hear the lies that you're putting out, but I know what my purpose is and I know where it is that I'm supposed to go with this"?
13:03 MONÉT: Yes! No, that's a really good point. I would say just knowing your place in the eyes of the Father, of God the Father. And for a long time I didn't have a good relationship with God the Father just because of certain wounds that came up throughout my life but once I started reading Abba's heart, once I started deepening my prayer life, praying specifically to God the Father, that's when I started realizing I am a beloved daughter. You and I are both the loving daughters in the eyes of our Father. And so because I have that understanding, and that foundation with my relationship with Him, when I hear the lie, I can rebuke it and speak the truth and to know I am worthy because my Father has made me worthy I am enough because my Father said I'm enough, and just recognize like we are not the daughters of the father of lies. We are the daughters of the father of truth. And so just, I, I need to verbally speak out audibly for my ears to hear, to just come out and write back in to hear the truth, and to speak over the lie.
14:17 RACHEL: That's so powerful, and I feel like it's only once we really understand that for ourselves and we're poured into in that way that we're able to really speak out that truth to other people so that they also can hear it. So, it brings me a lot of joy to see that it's not only fruitful for other people but it also is fruitful for you. And just speaking on fruit like I'd love to hear, you know, from your view, what have been some of the fruits and some of the real joys or surprises that have come from doing A Message of Hope?
14:54 MONÉT: Well, hopefully, this doesn't come off as narcissistic but sometimes I watch my own videos [laughs] and I'll go back and re-watch them to just see, first of all, which outfit I've worn in a previous episode and then like, am I going to wear that again? [laughs] But also to give my self hope, because I truly put so much time and effort into these episodes, and so much prayer into them, where sometimes they'll just go through my episodes, and I guess like a couple months younger me will speak and remind me of a truth, that I may be lacking the day that I'm watching that episode. And so I guess the shock or the surprise of this ministry is how my own ministry is still benefiting me even though I'm the one who's putting the videos and content out there.
I would also say, a lot of my friends with how blunt they are with critiques, I'm grateful for that. Because, obviously no one's perfect, this ministry will be far from perfect for probably forever, but to just hear their feedback, to tell me marketing skills because I'm doing everything off the whim! I never went to school for any of this aside from theology and catechetics. But to just see when I call out to God and be like, "This is really hard some days. Like it really feels like it's just me." And then when I speak that to God in prayer, the amount of people that come flooding towards me with useful tips, with help with marketing with episode ideas, like, okay, I don't feel so alone anymore. So it's just that really asking for the Lord to show Himself present in this ministry has been really amazing.
16:40 RACHEL: Yeah, it takes a village sometimes to, you know, raise people but also to raise up ministries, and that's really powerful. It's such a good reminder that, you know, even in our faith, we're not meant to journey alone. We're not meant to walk the path alone. And it requires a lot of companionship, and we're working alongside people so that's amazing.
17:02 MONÉT: Yes, definitely is.
17:04 RACHEL: Yeah. And aside from that... so you know you put out these resources for high school and college folks, but you also mentioned that you're an elementary school teacher. So, in many ways, like I said before, you're able to really capture a wide variety of young listeners, really. So, what got you interested in maybe that area of teaching and what do you do now with that, like what grade do you teach or what subject areas do you teach?
17:32 MONÉT: So I—truthfully when I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher forever. I just loved the idea even thinking back to Matilda to be a Miss Honey. That was my goal, I wanted to be Miss Honey. And then when I got older and as my studies continued in college, I wanted to just be a public speaker, Catholic speaker, not a teacher. But it's Regina Caeli Academy, that I'm teaching with. And I know the principal and her family well, and they needed help. And there was honestly a lot of peace with it even though that was a career I didn't think I was gonna go into. So I’m with them two days out of the week. I'm teaching fifth and sixth graders simultaneously, because it's small groups of families that pool together at our parish. And so I'm teaching fifth and sixth. It's been a blast.
It's beautiful to see how their minds work, because I think back middle school doesn't seem that long ago but to see them and to see what they're going through, I'm like, wow, they're going through maybe different struggles that I went through when I was in middle school, they are facing different challenges in life and their studies, whatever it may be. So, even some of my videos, honestly, I've taken from conversations with these students and formulated it into an episode because what they're struggling with, I know people my age are also struggling with too. So yeah, it's just been, it's been really beautiful, and I teach them everything! I teach them English, history, theology, we do it all! But they've been great. So I'm very grateful.
19:11 RACHEL: That's amazing, wow! And I'm always in awe of like elementary school teachers. I think back to my time in elementary school and like you said, having to teach literally everything and having to be knowledgeable in all of those areas! What has been your favorite part of teaching? You mentioned that you have that opportunity to obviously journey with and share your faith with these young minds and I love how you described it, how you're able to see their minds work and their minds in action. But what has been maybe the most fruitful or beautiful part about teaching for you?
19:46 MONÉT: I would say it's the relationships that you can form. Of course they need to be professional, student-teacher relationships. But to just see trust building to see respect building, to be able to see breakthroughs and see which subjects the students love and so then I could be like "Okay, I'm going to really foster this interest that the student has and I'm going to adjust the curriculum so they can keep coming to life each time we learn about science or each time we learn about history." And so it's really beautiful to see these students grow in the capacity that they were created for. And my biggest thing is when I was at school, sometimes I felt like a number, and not a person. So, I am always, always trying my best to treat these students as not just a student, not just someone sitting in my classroom but a soul and a body to be nourished and a soul to hopefully get to heaven. And, yeah, there's just a lot of responsibility in my hands every time I go into that classroom but it's been very rewarding.
20:56 RACHEL: Mmm, that's beautiful, that's beautiful and just as you're saying that how students, they shouldn't be a number in the way that maybe you felt that in school growing up. It brings me back to something that you mentioned earlier about this relationship that you've been able to foster with God the Father, and how you know very similarly He makes His love extremely personal and individual and unique to each one of us. So I know that even though He has seven billion children here on this earth, you know, we're not a number to Him. So, it's just so beautiful for me to hear you say that. And I'm really appreciative of that just because teaching is...it's busy, you have to juggle so many things, you have to know so many things, and you have to really work with so many unique minds who have different interests and needs and whatnot. So to have that very personal relationship with each of them is just such a gift. So it's great to meet teachers like you who are so dedicated to their students like that.
22:01 MONÉT: Thank you, Rachel.
22:02 RACHEL: Yeah, you know, anytime I talk to a woman, there's really no doubt of the feminine genius in her own heart and in the ways in which she's living it out. For you Monét, how have you seen your own feminine genius come to life or how have you seen through the work that you do through the ministry that you have, how have you seen yourself live it out?
22:22 MONÉT: I would say it's really recognizing that for those who are following me, 'cause again, you probably see on your end as well. When you go into Instagram, you can go into like insights of who's following you, the percentage of men and women who are following you, age and all that. And I oftentimes do look at that just to see how things are going and to see the high percentage of women and young girls that are following the ministry account, and there are also men, so I don't look over them! But for the sake of this question, to see all these age groups, especially from say 15 to 25 who are following me to say okay, in every episode I make, every post that I put out, how can I help nourish their dignity, their worth, where they stand in the faith, where they stand in the eyes of God. How will they have this confidence to feel like they have a good head on their shoulders and be like, "Yes, I'm a daughter of God, I have sisters around me who want to build up and not tear down." Because it's tough, it's been difficult moments of being a woman, especially with how society views us. But to look at all the beautiful women in scripture and to see the model that they set up for us and to turn to them and most especially too for my own self, I have grown ever since in middle school, just my relationship with our lady has deepened, thank God. and to just put her as the one I'm to mirror after. I want to have her obedience, I want to have her love, I want to have her faith.
And so, I see the more I cling to her, the more I do a consecration to her, that I am really becoming like her, and I am hopefully becoming a better daughter of God and just living out my faith well. And so, I want that to translate in my videos for other young girls to be like, the person I shouldn't be trying to marry after is someone who's living a promiscuous life, or someone who's far from the church or someone who is caught up with material things, but instead it should be Our Lady. Instead, it should be Mary Magdalene and seeing her beautiful conversion in scripture and all these beautiful women we see in the Bible that hopefully, is to what I'm portraying in my own life and through my ministry.
24:57 RACHEL: Yes, that's so beautiful! I mean Our Lady is the ultimate model and what a wonderful, not only woman but our mother so I appreciate you saying that, and I just appreciate having you on, Monét! it was just such a joy to connect and to hear from you and hear you share your own story and the work, the amazing work, that you're doing. so thank you for doing that. Thank you for being here. Would you be able to close this out in a prayer, Monét?
25:26 MONÉT: Of course! In the name of the Father, the Son of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Dear God, thank you so much for the witness of Rachel and her podcast ministry. Thank you for the opportunity for us both to gather here together, to continue to grow in faith, and in love for you. Help us to inspire other women, and even the men, to grow closer to Our Lady to grow closer in our faith. And Lord, maybe stay ever humble in the sight of your presence and may we never stray from you. Amen. In the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Amen.
26:23 RACHEL: Thank you again to Monét Souza for joining me on The Feminine Genius Podcast today! Please be sure to check out A Message of Hope for great Catholic content on a variety of topics. You can find A Message of Hope on YouTube and by following them on Instagram @amhlifestyles, and all this information is found on their website, amhlifestyles.com. I've left a link to this in the episode description below.
You can stay up to date with The Feminine Genius Podcast by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, we're @femgeniuspod, and you can listen to this podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and many other platforms. All this information can be found on our website, femininegeniuspodcast.com.
We'll talk to you soon, and God bless always!