Recently I have been stressing out about my future pretty hard. I’ve been trying to plan out some adult decisions now, so that I won’t be worrying so much later. For example, my plan right now for my future is to get into the LMU Master of Business Administration program. While thinking about these things, I’ve been thinking back to the first true adult decision I ever made: deciding to convert to Catholicism. I was eighteen and had spent almost my entire life figuring out what I believed in before I decided that I wanted to be Catholic.
My family had taught me Christian beliefs and took me to many different Christian churches, but they left it up to me to decide what I truly believed. The first church I can ever remember is a Methodist church in Jacksonville, Florida that we went to when I was about four. I don’t remember much about it, except that we used to play a lot of games. The next church I remember was a Church of Christ Church in Chorleywood, England. It was at this church, when I was about ten years old, that I knew I believed in Christianity, but I did not really know what I exactly believed. The elementary school I went to in England had a Religious Education class, and I got a survey of many different religious groups. My parents always encouraged me to attend church, and as we moved I attended many different churches and learned more about what I did and did not believe in. I made a point to get to know people of different faiths, and learn about their beliefs. I’m generally just open minded to the differences of religious groups.
It was in Memphis that I went to my first Catholic church, Church of the Nativity, and while it did not feel right automatically, I felt included. I went to church and youth group every week and most everything I learned made sense to me, and the whole time I felt that I belonged there. I was not the only non-Catholic participating in youth group which made me feel more comfortable, and I made friends quickly with the others there. My senior year of high school, the Youth Director asked me to be the co-Vice President of the youth group with another girl, and I gladly accepted. The more time I spent in church and youth group, the more the religion made sense to me.
During my first year at LMU I decided to attend some churches close to school, and while the people who ran them were very nice and welcoming, it did not seem like the right place for me to be. People asked me what church I attended back home, and I happily told them all about Church of the Nativity, and once they realized it was Catholic, I felt like people were treating me differently. People avoided conversation with me, and would not even sit at the same table with me. This reaction was so bizarre to me; no one had ever been negative to me about figuring out my faith before and that whole interaction was so off-putting. I also had some friends at school who thought Catholicism could not possibly be right for me because of my liberal and scientific views. Like the people I had met who shared their religious beliefs with me, I listened intently to these people who opposed my interest in Catholicism and thought for days about how I could define what I exactly I believed.
During Spring Break of my freshman year, I went to Abbey Youth Festival in Louisiana with the Catholic youth group back home, and while there I talked to a counselor about wanting to convert to Catholicism, but that I was skeptical because I have very liberal views. The counselor I talked to told me that being Catholic does not mean that everyone has to be the same, that God made us all different on purpose. There are going to be liberal and conservative Catholics, and that we should not all be defined in such a cookie-cutter way. With this in mind, I came home and told my parents that I intended to convert to Catholicism, and they completely supported me. That summer I was confirmed into the Catholic church, and I know that this will always be the first most important adult decision I will have ever made. I know that it was the right decision for me.
Unfortunately, it has not always been easy to be identified as Catholic in an area with a low number of members. My first Ash Wednesday, I proudly wore the ashes on my forehead, and spent the day getting looks that ranged from bewildered to disgusted. One girl even came up to me and said “do you know you have a hot mess on your face?” While I’ve been at LMU several religious groups have formed, but I personally have not felt the pull towards them. That being said, I know that LMU Mallory is apart of BCM and has written about it, and these groups accept everyone! I have had friends who encouraged me to start my own Catholic college-aged group, but not only do I not have the time, I do not have the knowledge base to do this. While I have met some of the creators of these groups and know them to be kind and welcoming, one of the fears that I have from my freshman year has been that people will not accept me even though they do not try to get to know me. All of this stems back to me being really thankful to my parents for letting me explore religions until I discovered what I believed for myself.
Have you had your own religious discovery that you’d like to share? What has been the most challenging part of maintaining faith in college? Remember to subscribe to my blog and if you have any questions or want to answer mine please leave me a comment!