Sarah Therese is another one of our contributors currently in community college. Here is her story. I'm so glad that this series is blessing so many of you ladies and I really appreciate all the feedback and comments! God bless.
What kind of college do you attend? Describe your situation and one thing you love/hate about it.
I attend a local community college and, therefore, live at home. My major -- Early Childhood Education -- is so small at this school that students have repeat professors semester after semester and half of the students in one class will be in all your other classes that semester and beyond. Of course, you befriend new students as they come, but you know most of your classmates from previous semesters. Many of my peers are working professionals who are returning to school for CE (continuing education) credits or to complete a certificate in place of CE credits (because the certificate does not need to be renewed in 2 years and is therefore far less expensive). And so my time in academia is spent largely in the company of people 10+ years older than me.
What is one of the hardest things about being a Catholic girl in college and upholding some of the ideals we discuss on CYW? Do you have any remedies?
Discussions about things that are immoral are never easy. I’m thankful that, in my major, the professors are a bit more conservative, but the professors I’ve had for my general education credits are not so much and my natural reaction in such an situation is exterior silence. I hope against hope that these things are not on the test (they never were), then I pray. I begin with Hail Mary’s to focus my mind, and then I follow Christ’s example on the cross: “Father, forgive them! They know not what they do.” As I walk out of class, I will offer the time to God by praying a Glory Be. It is hardly the easiest thing in the world because, despite my calm disposition, interiorly I am bewildered after such an experience. Still, I know that God is the God of love and mercy and that we are called to love the sinner and hate the sin.
Do you have any perspective on choosing good girl friends?
Frankly, I never expected to make any lasting friendships -- with guys or gals -- at the community college because I assumed that I’d never meet any kindred spirit in such a secular environment. Within my major I can at least befriend women with common interests (namely, children). Caused primarily by where I happen to sit in a classroom, I’ve befriended 3 or 4 women in my program and have kept contact with them via Facebook between classes. One of them is even Catholic and we’ve had such discussions during which I am relieved we share the same convictions! She is 10 years older than me, but I cherish our friendship.
Do you have any perspective on choosing good guy friends?
There are maybe two guys in the Early Childhood program at my school and though I have become acquaintances with several guys through classes outside of my program, I’ve not kept in touch with any of them. The upside to this situation is that I’m not even subconsciously looking around for a future husband. I generally befriend those who happen to sit around me in class, and that’s primarily for the sake of study partners and friendly conversation around class time.
The guy friends that I have in college (and many of my girl friends) are from the Catholic Campus Ministry I attend at the nearby University. Yup, you read that right -- I double dip! The University is a 10 minute walk from my house, has a flourishing CCM and FOCUS, and I’ve been blessed to become involved in a FOCUS Bible Study and make many friends there. If it weren’t for CCM and FOCUS, my faith would not be what it is today.
How can we maintain purity of the heart and body on a college campus (or whatever type of situation you have)?
St. Phillip Neri said “Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and devotion to the Blessed Virgin are not simply the best way, but in fact the only way to keep purity. At the age of twenty, nothing but Communion can keep one’s heart pure... Chastity is not possible without the Eucharist.”
The greatest gift you can give to your life now as a student is daily (or at least once more than Sunday) Mass. The Mass is the source and summit of our Christian life and frequent union with Christ through the Eucharist is the only thing that will sustain us through life. If a more frequent Mass schedule is not possible for you, consider making daily spiritual communions. Truly, I cannot emphasize enough how much prayer and a personal relationship with Jesus has changed my life.
How do you fit your academic work-load into your prayer life, and what’s one of the greatest difficulties for your spiritual life in college?
Earlier on in college, it would have been more accurate to say I [sort of] fit my prayer life into my academic work-load. Though I’ve long been a daily Communicant and have always said that faith is my first priority, the child-like faith I was graced with during my youth became harder to embrace in high school and the first couple of years in college. In January 2013, I experienced a re-version and last Advent, I realized the importance of prioritizing one’s prayer life. The reality is that going to Mass or praying the rosary isn’t simply “going to happen”... You have to actually decide to do it.
The greatest difficulty for me has been finding the motivation to pray/go out of my way to pray. Some days you just don’t feel like it or you think you’re too busy. Well, God would love to hear from you. *smiles*
How do you feel you can use the time in college to strengthen your faith and prepare/discern your vocation for the “real world”?
In light of my answer about prayer, I think the best thing we as Catholics can do during college is to delve deeper into our faith, befriend Jesus and Mary more personally, and build upon the foundation of our baptism so that we can weather the storms of the future (or even the past). So many lose their faith in college and it’s difficult, to say the least, to go against the current, but your reward will be great in heaven.
Since I’ve never had an interest in pursuing any career, I was careful to choose a major which would directly relate to my future vocation. This was not my primary reason for declaring Early Childhood Education (I figured if God calls me to a religious order, many teach; or if God calls me to the Sacrament of Matrimony... that’s fairly self-explanatory) but it was a factor.
Above all, I know that all God wants is my happiness and I know that I’ll only be happiest if I follow him. I am just beginning my final semester in college and I know that by applying myself to my studies, praying, attending Mass, and fulfilling my duties around the house and at work, I will serving the Kingdom if I do all for love of God.