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'How I Expect My Catholic Faith to Impact My College Career'

Winners of the Register’s Second Scholarship Contest

BY The Editors

January 30-February 12, 2011 Issue | Posted 1/21/11 at 5:35 PM

 

T. G. I. C.: Thank God I’m Catholic

By Marguerite Huff

St. Thomas More is my hero. As a hardworking college student I identify with More the statesman; as a Catholic I admire his response when rebuked for attending daily Mass despite his busy schedule: “I have much very important business to handle and I need light and wisdom; it is for this reason that I go to holy Communion every day to consult Jesus about them.” This quote synthesizes my experiences as a Catholic and an undergraduate. My faith, more than a side pursuit, enables me to succeed in all other aspects of college life.

Some of the advantages of being Catholic in college are obvious. While others frantically sought friends, I arrived on campus with a prebuilt Catholic community and social activities. But my faith is more than friends or fun outings; it is my “rock,” aiding me as well today as it did the Wise Man of Jesus’ parable. My first experiences with college parties and social life left me terrified, and at times I could only see two alternatives: living like a jail-broken Lindsay Lohan or puritanically regulating my social life. I was intensely homesick. However discouraging the situation seemed, my commitment to the Rosary and the Mass enabled me to avoid these extremes and negotiate a middle ground. Looking toward the example of Jesus and the saints, I could discern what company and activities would be engaging and still align with my moral values. Furthermore, meditation, especially on the Holy Family abroad in Egypt, gave me the courage to persevere in my work despite my longing for home.

Another challenge I face in college is its academic rigor. Studying or doing homework are far from occasions of sin, yet I soon discovered everything, schoolwork included, is an opportunity for spiritual combat. By habit I relied on my faith to get me through moral conundrums, but because I had excelled in high school, I subconsciously decided faith had little place in academics. The rough times I encountered freshman year were a shock. Instead of turning to God for aid, I remained proud, but when my grades were again poor, I became desperate and despairing. One gloomy winter day I happened upon More’s quote. It instantaneously realigned my outlook. I realized I had been relegating God to the spiritual sidelines in my life, when I needed him in all matters, especially my day-to-day duties. Now, while other students frantically pour over their notes before a test, I dedicate the time to prayer and know that whatever the outcome, I have done my best, and, ultimately, his will for me matters most.

Some see religion as an interference or waste of time for a student with so many other responsibilities. I, like St. Thomas More, choose to view my faith as the basis from which I will accomplish everything else. College has in many ways been a challenge, but at the end of the week, all I can say is: T.G.I.C. Thank God I’m Catholic!

Marguerite Huff is a junior at Northwestern University studying statistics and pre-medical coursework.

She grew up in Fountain Hills, Ariz., and in her free time she enjoys reading, drawing, studying and singing traditional Catholic music, as well as having fun with family and friends.


Christ’s Witness

By Miles Linde

In today’s colleges and universities it is all too common to run into students who say they “used to be Catholic” or that they “don’t really practice anymore.” However, it is increasingly important for college students to hold on to their faith through the upper levels of education as our society is becoming increasingly secularized. That is why I plan to have my Catholic faith take a primary role in both my studies and recreational time while I am in college.

As I plan to attend a state university, it is imperative that I bring my ethical standards and personal faith into my education. In addition, I plan to study a field that is notoriously controversial: The field of molecular biology is advancing quickly, often without ethical considerations. With the advance of stem-cell research and cloning, I will be provided with the opportunity to be a strong witness of my Catholic faith in a primarily secular discipline. Through prayer and regular reception of the sacraments, I will foster my faith so that I will have the spiritual strength to defend my morals against those who pursue scientific knowledge without regard to moral principles.

Although I plan to attend a secular university, I still plan to seek out a faith community through the Newman Center. This institution will be at the center of my spiritual life in college. Many students lose their faith in college, but by faithful attendance of the sacraments at the Newman Center, I hope to maintain a central role for faith in my life. By participating in intramural sports, retreats and other Newman Center activities, I hope to surround myself with strong spiritual friends who will give me strength to be the witness Christ is calling me to be.

I realize that at a state school I will encounter individuals who challenge my stance and even may cause me to question my faith. It is in these instances when faith becomes most important. Whether it be in a research lab or in an ethics classroom, I must be ready at all times to defend my faith. However, I believe that by explaining my personal position as supported by the Catholic Church, my own personal faith will be strengthened. In this way, I will not only be able to introduce others to Christ and his teachings, but also develop and nurture my own prayer life and personal convictions.

As a college student I will be under many pressures. I will have academic deadlines, social events and the stresses of supporting myself away from home. Just as Ananias told Saul, “You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:15), I hope to be Christ’s witness to all the people I meet at college.

Miles Linde, from Woodinville, Wash., is a senior at Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, Wash.

He plans to attend Washington State University in Pullman next year to double major in molecular biology and political science. He hopes to play in their marching band.


Following God on Campus

By Matthew Weatherford

Some say that how you live your college life will ultimately reflect how successful you are after college. Others say that the friendships and the habits you form in college will stay with you the rest of your life. However, nothing, except religion, can tell you that how you live your college life will echo in eternity. The question of how my Catholic faith is going to impact my college career seems like an easy question to answer: Everything I do will be at the service of God and my neighbors. However, in the world, where money, power and prestige are the social norms, the voice of God can easily be drowned out in a cacophony of immediacy, expedience and sensuality. The real question is not whether “my” faith will impact “my” college career, but whether I will listen to the voice of God calling me to follow him.

I often reflect upon the passage of the Rich Young Man. When the young man asked Jesus Christ what was necessary to attain eternal life, Jesus mentioned not only adherence to the commandments, but rejection of his wealth (Matthew 19:16-22). During my college career, faith is not just one of the many variables allocated to my life’s equation; rather, faith is what characterizes and guides my decisions, allowing me to let go of my wealth and follow Jesus completely. Most of the time, our intellect can more easily accept the principles of Catholicism than our will, and that can have ramifications. Thinking yourself Catholic and acting like everyone else on campus may be “universal,” but not Christian.

True charity consists in living before God, not before others. The pressures of friends, work and study tempt us to isolate our faith as a Sunday duty rather than what it is: a call to know, love and serve God more fully. To help me accomplish this, I imagine a scale: On one side, I place all my human aspirations, and on the other, the prospect of eternal life. No matter how pure or well-intentioned my aspirations may be, they will never add up to eternal life. Christ attests to this when he says, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

My faith and relationship with God must come first before anything else.

I am a freshman at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. The university has a strong Catholic identity, and I am thankful that it is not only retaining this identity, but strengthening it. To live with a spirit of faith, I expect my faith to affect my morals, my classes, my friends, my goals and, in fact, everything. I aspire to live a sacramental life. I intend to become a part of campus ministry. I resolve to talk, act, think, pray and live my college career in the light of eternity, proud of the title and honor I call my own: I am a Catholic.

Matthew Weatherford is a freshman at the University of St. Thomas in Houston who plans on pursuing a degree in philosophy. He is from Spring, Texas.


Essay Selection

The nominating committee — led by the Register donor who provided money for the awards — narrowed the entries to seven finalists. Then five Register editors were given the task of determining which student best explained “How I Expect My Catholic Faith to Impact My College Career.”

Seven points were given to each judge’s choice for first place, six points for second place and so on. The essays were lightly copy edited for presentation.

Congratulations to our winners. Thank you, all entrants. God bless you in your college careers. And a special thanks to our donor for making the contest possible. — Editors