2017 Summer Orientation

Day 1: Welcoming new missionaries & Archabbey tour.

The Culture Project is super blessed to be welcomed at St Vincent Archabbey and College for our summer training. We are stoked to be able to pray with these monks and begin our new mission year rooted in prayer.

After welcoming our new missionaries, we had an in-depth tour of the Archabbey by 2 great friends of The Culture Project; Brother Cassian (a founding member of CP) and Fr Isaac.

St Vincent Archabbey is Roman Catholic Benedictine Monastery in Latrobe, PA. Started by Archabbot Boniface Wimmer in 1846 as a missionary monastery to serve and offer sacraments to the German immigrants at the time. SVA is the oldest Benedictine Monastery in the USA and the largest congregation on the western hemisphere. http://www.saintvincentarchabbey.org/

Welcoming New Missionaries

St Vincent Archabbey Tour

Day 2: Self-Knowledge

“Grant Lord, that I may know myself that I may know thee.” – St. Augustine

Today, we explored who we are in the eyes of God. We began learning St. Ignatius’s rules on the discernment of spirits and the awareness of consolation and desolation in the spiritual life. We then took the temperament test, in order to learn more about our own particular personality and disposition toward community life and work. Both of these topics serve as an excellent foundation in order to thrive in the mission field and live the demands of communal life.


Day 3: BVM & The Parrish Family Farm

Saturday in the Catholic Church are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and we had the great pleasure to have Fr. Jean-Luc share his love for the Miraculous Medal and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Through the Miraculous Medal and the Sacred Heart of Heart Jesus, Fr Jean-Luc went from Presbyterian to Catholic, a Catholic convert to Diocesan Priest, and then Diocesan Priest to Benedictine Monk.

“Divine love, which unites a man and a woman and makes them become parents, is capable of generating in the hearts of their children the seed of faith, that is, the light of the deep meaning of life.” – Pope Benedict XVI

During summer orientation, we only leave the campus of St Vincent College a few times and one those adventures is always the Parrish Family Farm. The Culture Project family has become an extension of the Parrish family. Jim and Michelle can totally handle it after raising 11 amazing kids, adding 40+ CP missionaries is not a problem at all!

BVM & Parrish Family Farm

Day 4: MCore & Pentecost

We were privileged to be trained by Mimika Garesche who trains lay leaders in the Church through her work in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Mimika asked us to reflect on a story in our life where we completed something and felt a sense of accomplishment. We were then able to reflect on our motivations for completing different tasks. This is vital to entering into the mission and is a key component to understanding self and using our motivations to be the most effective in reaching others.   (https://motivationalcore.com/)


We love Pentecost! (Who doesn’t?!) AND FATHER MAX! Fr Maximilian M. Maxwell OSB is A-MAZING! Turns out we’ve been secret superfans of each other. We share a part of his beautiful homily on the reading from the Acts of the Apostles: “The Lord goes with you, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in order to reach those you are serving in this mission. Like the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, who were able to understand one another regardless of native land, the Holy Spirit will help facilitate an encounter with every human person through the language of the heart.”

MCore & Pentecost

Day 5: Ethos of the Culture Project

After a few days of growing in self-knowledge and retreat, today we transitioned into gaining a greater understanding of the ethos of the Culture Project’s mission. Through our three presenters, we gained a greater understanding of the why behind our mission and the specific impact we make in the culture. Catherine Kilmer, a veteran missionary, shared the vital necessity of this ministry and how it has prepared her for her vocation as a wife and mother. Our Founder and Executive Director, Cristina Barba, took us back to the core of our mission by sharing challenging and inspiring words by our spiritual father, St. John Paul the Great. Finally, we were privileged to hear from a founding member of The Culture Project, Brother Cassian about the correct disposition for the ministry of speaking.

Brother Cassian offered us three takeaways in his presentation. First, to know our role, that as speakers and witnesses we are sowers to those we encounter. Weare a mission of hope because of our unique task of instilling seeds in the minds and hearts of young people that we might not ever see watered and harvested. Second, he reminded us that this mission is not about ourselves, and we constantly must be on guard against our own agenda in the classroom. We must seek to be true givers in our presentations, not taking any of the glory or recognition upon ourselves. Third, we must commit to ongoing formation so that each talk we give is individually crafted to our audience and is presented as an original work of art each time we step into a classroom.


Day 6: Community, Prayer, and Pizza with the Abbots

Community living is the foundation in which our entire mission thrives. We had a dear spiritual father of The Culture Project, Father Tom Aklin, offer his highly acclaimed wisdom on the topic. Community challenges us with the opportunity to share ourselves in ways that we might never have before. This demands both an intimate relationship with God through a healthy prayer life and patience for ourselves and those that we live with. To the extent that we are open before the Lord in prayer, the greater our vulnerability will be present in community life.
Tonight we were honored to share the mission of The Culture Project with Archabbot Douglas of St. Vincent Archabbey and Abbot Driscoll of Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon. Tom Costello, leader of the Los Angeles team, shared about the mission and Lindsay Fay shared a personal story from an encounter while speaking to convey the beauty of The Culture Project. Both Archabbot Douglas and Abbot Driscoll imparted an encouraging message to our team and inspired us to persist in bringing the Gospel of Life to our culture. We feel so privileged to have the support of both of these leaders in the Benedictine community who pray for our mission and offer us hospitality throughout the year.

Day 7: Importance of Ongoing Formation

Father Canice of St. Vincent Archabbey joined us just eighteen days after his ordination to share about the importance of ongoing formation in the life of a missionary. He extrapolated upon St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis. It offers an explanation of the Church’s four pillars of formation used to prepare seminarians for the priesthood, which directly mirror the four pillars of The Culture Project: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation. These four pillars are meant to fortify us in the heart of Christ and His Church, withstanding both the cultural climate and our own struggles living out the faith in the world today.

Day 8: Support Raising Seminar

A unique component of our mission is the ministry of support raising. Over 3 days, we were empowered by our own colleagues, Chad Etzel and Kayla Stadelman, to approach raising our support for this work as yet another opportunity to fulfill our mission. We do this by encountering our mission partners person by person and bringing them into this work with us. We were challenged to see that through the providence of God, a healthy perspective, and an honest assessment of our needs, we will have the tools to succeed in the ministry of support raising.

Welcome Dinner

Each year, the Culture Project family gathers together for our End of the Year Banquet. This evening is a favorite to many of us, where we take the time to celebrate the successes of the previous year and look forward with hope to the next. We heard inspiring speeches from Brother Cassian OSB, a founding member of The Culture Project, about CP’s big dreams yet humble beginnings. We also heard from Cristina Barba, Executive Director of CP about all the excitement for the upcoming year of mission. We celebrated the conclusion of the mission year with a fun video made by each team and gave speeches and toasted to our new mission staff. This night brought many laughs, tears and set an exciting tone for all The Culture Project will experience in this upcoming year as an organization.

CP Olympics

The CP Missionaries took some time one afternoon of training to have a little fun and healthy competition. The first annual CP Olympic Games, a competition consisting of five challenging obstacles, was a great opportunity to bond and test our strength and teamwork. In the end, team pink took home the victory with team red coming in close second.

Talent Shows

Another CP Training favorite is our annual talent show. This is a beautiful night of sharing both fun and vulnerable gifts with each other. We were entertained through the gift of song, comedy, poetry, break dance, and even self-defense! It is such a privilege to witness the unique gifts of our team and is sure to be a night we will never forget.

David Sao
David Sao
David Sao was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. He had been involved with the Pro-Life movement since he was a student at The Pennsylvania State University. David’s passion for spreading the truth, goodness, and beauty, and building the culture of life lead him to work for several non-profits after college. Through his work, he realized the importance of harnessing beautiful media to spread the messages of life and love. David has since acquired extensive knowledge and proficiency in both the technical and artistic elements of media communications. David, with many of his colleagues, founded The Culture Project International in 2014 to restore a culture in need of truth, goodness, and beauty. He has loved every moment of it.