By ALLISON MAWN, Special to the Bulletin | Published October 5, 2023
ATHENS—On Sept. 28, global influencer, author and speaker Emily Wilson visited the University of Georgia Catholic Center, providing an encouraging message to the community.
Wilson spoke on identity rooted in Christ and how it can be lived out through courage, humility and obedience. She felt this topic was especially important for college students, who are under the pressure of busy schedules and many expectations. She emphasized that identity does not lie in one’s major or their grades or even what their peers think of them.
“I think when we learn in a deeper way to root our identity in the Lord, our faith becomes more unwavering,” Wilson said. “Our self worth becomes more unwavering. Our understanding of who we are doesn’t change with the wind when we get a bad grade or get rejected from this or that.”
Emily Wilson is a YouTuber, award-winning writer, wife and mom, who shares her faith online and travels the world to share her witness.
She was encouraged by her third-grade teacher to sing in front of the whole church at age 7. With support from a high school choir teacher, Wilson started leading music regularly. She planned to become a sports broadcaster and earned a degree in broadcast journalism, but after reading “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women” (Mulieris Dignitatem), she felt a call to use her education to spread the Gospel.
After working for two years as a high school campus minister, she began a full-time traveling ministry beginning in 2013.
In the summer of 2016, she wrote her first book titled “I Choose the Sky.” It is a scriptural devotion with reflections on 17 women in the Bible and what can be learned from their lives, decisions and encounters with Christ.
Emily and her husband, Daniël, created an educational kids TV show concept to help bring faith to life for children. Marcam is a live action, educational and entertaining Catholic kids’ show for children ages 2 to 6. The show streams on various platforms including FORMED.
Wilson shared some testimony from her time during and after college, noting how God’s plans and ours tend to not look the same. She highlighted St. Andrew as a role model of humility and his “service of God without the need for acclaim.”
Wilson emphasized Mary throughout the night’s program, highlighting the wedding at Cana as an illustration of both Mary’s humility and the waiters’ obedience. She also discussed Mary’s courage during the Annunciation and how the students could learn from that.
“In these moments where we feel greatly troubled, when we know who we are, when we have rooted our identity in Jesus, we find it within us, we find Christ within us, and we find the courage to say yes,” Wilson said.
An analogy Wilson referred to was comparing trust in God to being on a rowing team. On those teams, the rowers cannot see where they are going and are guided by the coxswain, who is facing the direction the boat is going. Wilson said that the students should be to God like the rowers are to the coxswain—going where they’re told without arguing or questioning.
Wilson’s talk was followed by adoration and praise and worship, during which she sang with the Catholic Center worship band.
Father Brian McNavish, who met Wilson several years ago on a retreat, first organized the visit, reaching out to her over the summer. The priest is the center’s director.
“In an attempt to continue growing in our relationship with Christ, building a community and spreading the Gospel at UGA, I thought a well-known Catholic speaker would help us with this particular mission of evangelization,” Father McNavish said.
This visit was first announced via the Catholic Center Instagram on Aug. 25, and received an enthusiastic response among the students.
“I started following her going into my freshman year of high school,” said Lexie Hadjin, UGA student and fan of Wilson, said. “Watching her as I grew up in this formative period of my life and seeing her example…and her witness to the Lord and how good he is. It is just, for me, the woman that I want to be.”
UGA students were not the only ones in attendance. Young adults, UGA alumni and college students from across the country descended upon Athens to hear Wilson speak. Students from Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State University and other schools gathered into the chapel for the event and mingled, enjoying snacks and drinks in the Center Hall after.
“This was one of the coolest things I think I’ve ever been a part of,” Nick Anderson, co-president of the UGA Catholic Student Association, said. “It’s really awesome to see everybody sharing in this space that is so special to me, to come together and worship Jesus.”