Finding Christ in College as a Catholic Convert
Students encounter the Church on their campuses.
Christ enters into everyone’s life in different ways.
College is a particularly faith-filled time for students, who are encountering Christ through the Church on non-Catholic campuses across the country.
University of Maryland
Jim Demory, a senior history major at the University of Maryland, was welcomed into the Church this past year at Easter.
He is a member of the Catholic Terps, the nickname for the Catholic Student (Newman) Center community on campus.
Demory said that taking a philosophy class and reading Plato’s Allegory of the Cave helped him to want to “chase the truth, no matter what form it took.”
Demory also said that having good Catholic friendships prompted him to pursue the truth.
Through friends, he said, he was introduced to the idea of becoming Catholic and worked through misconceptions.
The Eucharist, he explained, first prompted him to convert, as he came to believe — through both historical and scriptural evidence — that the Eucharist was in fact the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.
Despite his belief, the young man was hesitant to become Catholic and wanted a sign from God to do so. So, one day, he asked God to give him a sign and answer a question he had regarding creation.
Within minutes, he recalled, a priest talked to him about the creation story.
The next week, Demory was attending daily Mass and asked God again to give him a sign to convert, “just to be really sure,” he recalled. During the Universal Prayer (Prayer of the Faithful), he said that the priest prayed that the “people who are thinking about converting to the Catholic Church be led to do so.”
Within an hour of leaving that Mass, Demory sent an email requesting to join the OCIA group. And then, on Easter 2023, he was fully initiated into the Catholic Church.
Columbia Law School
Marina Frattaroli, a Columbia Law School student, is also a recent convert.
The graduate of Duke University, who double majored in art history and religious studies, decided to pursue law in New York.
During her undergraduate years, she studied Gothic cathedrals; she recalled how the church edifices “evangelized” her, but that she didn’t know it at the time.
While taking a particular course, she studied their development, and it exposed her to the theology that guided their design, which was part of the pursuit of “incorporating ever more light into the interiors to revere God as the ultimate Light,” she said.
While taking another course on ancient Christianity, she was left dissatisfied, since the material that she was studying was “full of concerns that were unfamiliar” to her.
A Protestant at the time, she began questioning Catholic teaching on subjects such as martyrs, the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
But these ancient Christians, she said, guided her towards Catholicism.
Resources such as social media, educational books from Matthew Kelly and Scott Hahn, and the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionaries at Columbia proved to be invaluable to her faith journey, as well.
Attending Catholic churches around campus and attending FOCUS missionary-led events helped the law student further discern and seek understanding of Church doctrine.
Rereading the Gospels prompted Frattaroli to pay close attention to things like the setting, tone and order of events. When it came to reading the Last Supper account, she was stunned at how beautiful the details were. And when she read the words “This is my body,” everything began to coalesce, and she began catechesis.
She entered the Church last December.
Coming from a nondenominational Christian background, Carly Moran’s family never really attended church. When she had faith-related questions, they were always directed to her grandpa, who taught classes at his Catholic church. “When my grandpa passed away when I was young, my questions never fully went away, but a desire to grow in my faith was kindled,” she said. Moran, a junior majoring in political science, was welcomed into the Church this past Easter.
In high school, Moran studied the Bible and tried to find a singular book that could summarize both Church history and apologetics. Little did she know at the time that the Catechism of the Catholic Church would help with her seeking.
Then, in college, she was invited to attend Mass with one of her friends, and she knew that she felt at home in the Catholic Church.
“I fell in love,” Moran recalled, elaborating: “I also fell in love in the traditional sense” of being captivated by the Mass.
Throughout this journey, Moran recalled that, ironically, joining a sorority helped her become closer to God, too. The community of women helped her understand the Catholic faith in an “approachable, beautiful way.”
“Becoming Catholic has added a level of depth to my prayer life I never had before. I feel like I truly have a personal connection with Christ, with that largely being due to the Eucharist, Rosary and confession,” she told the Register.
She added: “I am far from perfect, especially being new, but that is why we rely upon the beauty of Christ’s grace.”
Another Hillsdale student, Josiah Jagoda, a junior majoring in philosophy, detailed his conversion and how when he first went to college he knew absolutely nothing about Catholicism and certainly did not know what the word “Eucharist” means.
“I had never even realized that there were Christians who believed something like Christ’s Real Presence,” Jagoda told the Register.
From then on, he was both shocked and curious to learn more about the faith, which eventually led him to his conversion and welcome into the Church last Easter.
With support from his sister Grace, who converted in Easter of his freshmen year, and his best friend, Jack, Jagoda was able to ask questions and lean on his support system on his path towards Catholicism.
In addition, he was most impacted by Love and Responsibility by Pope St. John Paul II, St. Augustine’s Confessions, and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae.
“I found in the Church the answer to all the emptiness of my faith life in high school,” he said. “Instead of being a component of how I was raised or my moral choices, my faith began to revolutionize how I looked at life and the world.”
Throughout his journey, he was taught a deeper understanding of love and was challenged through Catholic authors about his existing conception of God.
“I realized that no matter where I turned in the Church, I found a deeper and richer understanding of how our faith interacts with the world,” he added.
“I finally felt that there was a fullness to the Christian life that didn’t exist prior to my contact with Catholicism.”
University of Colorado-Boulder
Catholic conversions are also happening at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
Avery Hirsch, a senior studying public relations and sports media, knows this firsthand.
“Something that I have learned in college that has aided my conversion has been learning that I wasn’t being fulfilled in my relationships with others,” Hirsch said.
Hirsch said that when she met her “big sister” in her sorority, the young woman mentor served as an example and role model as to what life as a Catholic looks like.
Because of this example, Hirsch said that she “ended up falling in love with Catholicism.”
“Something that inspired me to convert to Catholicism is the outpouring of love that I felt from everyone in the Buffalo Catholic community, the virtuous friendships that had been created throughout my time in the community before conversion and the guidance from former FOCUS missionaries,” recalled the new Catholic, who also referenced helpful Catholic resources like FOCUS’ SEEK conferences.
Also, through daily Mass, she said she was able to “truly open my heart and understand myself and how Catholicism would affect and influence my life and those around me.”