We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Brooke Roberts. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Brooke below.
Brooke, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. We’d love to go back in time and hear the story of how you came up with the name of your brand?
In a noisy, strained culture, it is difficult to set oneself apart in ministry with a name that isn’t commonplace. For my part, I chose to use a Latin verb — ite — to intrigue people and to adequately summarize the mission of the apostolate.
Ite is a verb that means to “go forth.” At the end of a Catholic Mass, the priest has the option to say say “Ite, missa est” or “go forth, the Mass is ended.” Catholics believe that during Mass they are fed both through Scripture and the reception of Christ in the Eucharistic offering. This final “sending” at the end of Mass indicates that now that one has been spiritually fed, it is one’s responsibility to go forth and live one’s life according to the life of Christ.
The mission of The ITE Project is exactly that — to go forth and to authentically live the Gospel. In practice, we do this by doing service projects and offering community-based events were people feel welcomed and accepted for who they are.
Brooke, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
Growing up, I never thought of myself as someone who would be called to work in Christian ministry. I wasn’t an active “church-goer” nor was I drawn to working with the underprivileged. In fact, when discerning The ITE Project, I stubbornly refused to believe that it should even work with the young adult demographic. Through the patient efforts of my team and the grace of God I agreed to something I was secretly, wildly uncomfortable with. Eight years of work later, I am grateful that I am loved so much that others who could see my strengths would help me to discover myself in this ministry.
I founded The ITE Project as a 501(c)3 in 2014 with litte more than a vision and hope. It is the incredible team of those around me who have sustained it and brought it to today. The ministry is beginning its ninth year which is an increble feat. The life-cycle for young adult groups is three years and so our longevity is a testimony to those who serve it.
Apart from The ITE Project, I am a wife and mother to nine children ages 18 years to one year old. This is another remarkable story that doesn’t make sense when you look at all the individual pieces, but somehow the sum does make sense. My husband and I never felt called to have a large family and began our young adulthood as typically as any other person. Nearly 20 years later, we are surrounded by relentless love from a family we never imagined possible.
I field two questions most frequently — how did I get to this point in my life and how can I possibly manage it all. The shortest response is that I have faith that there is a being greater than myself who is infinitely creative, wants me, and wills my good even in my suffering. Whatever trials I have faced, knowing that what I see is not the whole of what is to be teaches me faith.
The ITE Project is an outpouring of that love that I receive so freely. For me, sharing Christ means sitting with you in the beautiful and in the ugly. It isn’t trying to convince you that everything will be okay because God loves you; I highly disagree with that idea. Some things in life unfortunately just suck and there isn’t anything that could ever fix the despair we endure. Sometimes simply accompanying a person through that suckiness is all we can do.
For ITE’s part, that might be helping a single mom moving to a new location to escape an abusive home. It might mean helping a disadvantaged couple paint their home to avoid fines from the local municipailty. It might be hosting a baby shower for a scared young mom who doesn’t have a support system. It could also mean an annual event passing out roses for free at a local mall or heading out to an area filled with trash from passing by cars and cleaning it up. I think that the Christian life is best lived through activation and by sharing words only when necessary.
We often hear about learning lessons – but just as important is unlearning lessons. Have you ever had to unlearn a lesson?
A lesson that I had to unlearn, and still struggle against, is my belief that I am not capable of great things and that I am not wanted.
Probably somewhere in my childhood, this idea emerged that I wasn’t part of the group and wasn’t enough to ever be part of the group. When I began high school in an unfamiliar city, this idea was reinforced greatly. I then chose to commute to college and live alone off campus which again furthered this idea that I didn’t ever belong and that I was only a very small part in a chaotic world that didn’t actually care about me.
Coupled with mental illness and thoughts of suicide, it has been a struggle to discover who I am against a rhetoric of internal hate. There have been a shocking number of others’ suicides and several failed attempts in my personal circles, especially in the last seven years.
This ironically is what has helped to me to unlearn my self-hate. Because it is easier for me to see the value of each individual person and the gift that they are, sharing this with others makes a difference in each life. Words are one of my gifts and I am now inspired to encourage as many as I can so that they know how necessary they are to this time and space of eternity.
And, in doing so, I have also had to unlearn my blatantly toxic narrative of my own personal identity. I am better at it today and dedicated to working against it in the future. I am wanted and I am loved into being. I am seen and although I suffer, I am not alone.
In the end, I suppose it is about hope. Sharing hope gives us the courage to move forward in faith that the hairs on our head are counted and that we matter.
Can you tell us about a time you’ve had to pivot?
Complacency is my enemy and is arguably such to those in ministry and any industry. Although we would like to think ourselves different and build our brands to identify those differences, it is important to objectively evaluate whether or not we continue to hold true to our identity over time.
When ITE’s ministry first began, there were no young adult groups that did service projects or offered talks for people to learn about their faith. Over the years, suddenly other opportunities like ours began to pop up. For us, it is important that we serve gaps in ministry not being offered by others.
In the last year through a thorough examination of our schedule and intended work for 2023, I was surprised to find that we were doing exactly similiar to everything else in the area. This is going to be a hard pivot for us in 2023 partly because I am comfortable with the routines that we have created and partly because I don’t know how to do things differently again. I have, in a sense, been lulled to sleep by a rhythym of my own doing.
Objectively, I want to help those who are not being helped. If other groups in my area have begun helping in these ways, then it is our responsibility to discern where we are now being called.
My team and I have begun this pivot by striking from our 2023 calendar similiar events that are held by other groups. We are hosting a “meeting of the minds” of sorts with our team, young adults and local priests to talk about what a young adult today is in most need of spiritually. And, perhaps the most difficult part of me, is that we cannot set the entirety of our calendar for next year because we are actively working to discover what it is.
As trying as this can be, I am confident that this pivot will bear great fruit for the ministry in its future endeavors.
- Website: www.TheITEProjet.com
- Instagram: TheITEProject
- Facebook: TheITEProject