By: Erica L. Cerasale
Deciding on which college to attend is a large part of a high schooler’s life. So much time and pressure are spent boosting our GPA, participating in extracurriculars, and volunteering so that we get accepted into our ‘’dream school.’’
I was not one of those people.
My GPA was good, but I didn’t have to put in much effort to earn it. The only extracurricular activity that I was involved with was theatre. And for volunteering, I spent some summers helping the public library in my town plus being one of the leaders for Vacation Bible School at the local church.
I applied to four colleges in my state: a private Jesuit university, a private Catholic university, and two public state universities. I ended up deciding on attending Western Connecticut State University. It’s public state college about 45 minutes from my hometown. I picked WCSU because of the financial aid they awarded me, its smaller size, and the opportunity to have a fresh start.
When move-in-day finally arrived, I was surprised at how quickly I adjusted to college. In a matter of weeks, I was able to walk around campus without getting lost. Plus, I had found a group of friends to hang out with.
The Life Changing Experience of the Newman Center
Around the end of September, however, my entire life was changed when I was introduced to my university’s Newman Center.
At the time, I was a Catholic at surface level. I was raised in the faith as a child and attended religious education classes. I also received the sacraments of First Holy Communion, Reconciliation, and Confirmation. However, I did not have my own personal relationship with God. Daily prayer was something that I did not partake in. Nor did I attempt to go to Confession or read the Bible.
The only time that I thought about Jesus was once a week.
Four FOCUS missionaries resided at the Newman Center. It was the first time I witnessed young adults live out their Catholic faith. All the missionaries prayed daily, went to Mass daily, and received Confession often. What was more amazing was the fact that they interacted with others in a welcoming manner. Not only that, but everything they consumed, said and did was for the glory of the Lord. Their actions reminded me of this Bible verse:
Finally, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. ―Philippians 4:8
Challenges of Being a Catholic in a Secular College
As I spent more time at Newman, I got to experience many things that I have never experienced before: engaging in fellowship, attending a Bible study; being in the presence of the Lord during Adoration. By learning and growing in faith, I realized that I must do a very important thing; the most challenging thing that I have ever done (or ever will do): being of the Word and not of the world.
Attending a small, secular, state school has made this no easy feat.
Being a Catholic at a college where faith isn’t a priority in many students’ lives can be frustrating. I have encountered the following challenges along the way:
- Questioning whether I should wear my Miraculous medal or the shirt with Our Lady of Guadalupe on the back out in public instead of during a time when I’m in my dorm room more.
- Whispering the rosary at night, hoping that my roommates don’t hear me and call me out on what I’m doing.
- The awkwardness of discussing with classmates why I haven’t seen an episode of Euphoria because ‘’that show is something that I am not a fan of.’’
- It’s watching some of my friends outwardly (and proudly) state that a woman has the right to decide what to do with her body, even if meant killing the innocent human being that was inside her.
Honestly, there have been times I’ve been upset and wished I attended a Catholic university. In the moment, it seemed ‘easier’ to be surrounded by people who were just like me.
Living the Christian Faith is Worth It
But walking with Christ has never been (or never will be) easy. If it was, then we wouldn’t be able to grow in our faith. The temptation to go with the crowd and abandon my beliefs is something that I will always have to fight against.
But it is something that’s worth fighting for.
No matter what my peers say about the Church, I will continue to advocate for Her. I have experienced faith, fellowship, love, and servitude, and I know just how beautiful it can be. More than ever, college students are chasing sin to fulfill the emptiness in their hearts. But what they don’t realize is that those desires of being seen, wanted, and loved can be satisfied in Christ.
The Lord wanted me to attend a secular college so I can discover Him in a non-traditional setting and to become a vessel of His love for the campus community.
For a girl who never obsessed about which college to attend, I ended up at the school where I was meant to be. And that’s all because of Jesus.
About our guest blogger:
Erica Lynn is a third-year Communication and Marketing student at Western Connecticut State University and is Secretary of her college’s Newman Club. Erica is passionate about fellowship and the power of social media to evangelize within the Church. Follow her on Instagram @_catholit_ to see more Catholic content.