College: A Cascade of Transformations
Rich with choices and newfound autonomy, many students are determined to “find themselves” in college. Our culture measures success in terms of our ability to obtain the perfect job, most prestigious title, or most glamorous relationship. College students are sold the idea that freedom means greater choice and control of their lives’ plans. There’s an understanding that an interest in faith can be set aside for a later time. These concepts are lies. I know, because not too long ago, I believed them.
My first three years at the University of Cincinnati (UC) were full of new people, abundant opportunity, and meaningful recognition for my achievements inside and outside the classroom. I built up a beautiful kingdom of successes and believed myself to be happy. Born and raised Catholic, I attended Mass on Sundays, but never established roots in my young adult faith life. Instead, I was transient, jumping from parish to parish. However, I knew my “check the box” outlook towards the Sunday Mass obligation characterized me as more involved in my faith than most of my peers, and, in turn, I grew complacent.
COVID-19 destroyed this false sense of control over my life. With nothing to occupy my attention and energy, I found myself at an emotional and spiritual bottom, but didn’t recognize it as such, given the habitual, restless self-seeking that dominated my early years of college. It was in this place that the Lord found me, and, by His grace, I let Him in.
When I met Father Ethan Moore and Father Christopher Komoroski last August, they were only a few weeks into their new assignments at St. Monica-St. George Parish Newman Center. The only explanation for our meeting was the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit, because when my uncle informed me the “new priests from UC were coming over for dinner,” I almost didn’t go. I was heading into my fourth year at UC and not looking for new friends, let alone involving myself in a faith community. However, after meeting them, I knew life was going to be different.
Father Ethan immediately connected me to students involved in Catholic Bearcat. What began as a small “yes” to getting coffee with a few girls, quickly became a bigger yes to joining them for Mass or Adoration. From there, a cascade of transformations ensued. My heart quickly moved from a place of apprehension to conviction in my faith, leaving me little time to process what was unfolding.
In hindsight, I see the truth in the words of St. John Henry Newman: “He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about.” A mere month into this newfound life in my Catholic faith, my mom called with news that she had been diagnosed with cancer. She fought her battle courageously, but it only lasted a few months, as God called her home to heaven this past February. Throughout the entirety of her illness, I found myself turning to something I had only recently cultivated in my life: a relationship with Jesus Christ, made known to me through the faith community at my Newman Center.
God’s timing is certainly not our own, but He promises all will turn out for good. For 21 years, I, like most of my peers, sought validation and affirmation in the things of the world; yet, in His faithfulness, the Lord poured out His mercy and prepared a particular path for me to know my identity as His daughter at the time I would need it most.
While I was content to wait to pursue a relationship with Him until after college, I thank Him daily that He was never waiting for me – He moved first. College years should be a time of joy and discovery, but never at the expense of Truth. Instead of searching for our identities in career or status, college students have a unique opportunity to bravely pursue freedom found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s one thing to go to school to earn a degree; it’s another to grow in sanctity. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, and we need not put off one in pursuit of the other.
Abagail Klare is a student at the University of Cincinnati, studying economics and political science. She is an active member of Catholic Bearcat at St. Monica-St. George Parish Newman Center.
This article appeared in the August 2021 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.