I was born and raised a "cradle Catholic" and was the youngest of a big, Catholic family. Church every Sunday with my family was mandatory and every Sunday night my family would host other families at our house to pray the rosary. For eleven years I attended a small Catholic school and up through the eighth grade, my faith did not really mean too much to me. It was simply something my family did and something I was forced to practice. Growing up I attended with my family dozens and dozens of different Catholic camps, talks, events, retreats etc. Although I considered my family Catholic i never really looked within and looked at myself as Catholic. Praying on my own was not a thing done often and I seldom actually payed attention during mass.
I started high school however and everything changed. For the first time in my life I attended public school and this was a huge transition for me. Although it was hard at first I ended up loving it. As high school started so did joining my church's youth group. I slowly but surely became more and more involved within the youth group, but this was mostly forced by my mother. My sophomore year I was able to join the youth group "team" and that was when I was able to truly become passionate about my faith. I think it was because I was among kids my own age and not with my family. I started to help plan retreats and started to fall in love with my youth group and my faith. The people on the team became my best friends and we were there to help each other grow in our faiths. Even though I had been in catholic school for eleven years, it was not until I joined my youth group that I really started to learn and understand my faith. Mass, adoration and bible study all of a sudden started to become "cool" for me.
By the end of my junior year I was one of the main leaders on my youth group team and felt that I had become a strong leader among my peers. I was extremely excited for my senior year on the team, finally the oldest members, my friends and I knew this was going to be a great year to lead others to the faith. But, things did not work out as planned and my youth minister surpised us by saying she would be quitting her job to become a teacher. We were all devestated to lose her and even more devestated when our parish showed a lack of motivation to find us a new youth minister. After my youth minister left, the youth group was never the same and after awhile I stepped down from my position as a leader as I refused to participate in a youth group that taught and preached things we as Catholics do not believe in. Instead of a time where teens could come together to learn and share about their faith, youth group became a place where teens came to watch movies and eat food. This deterioration of our youth group left me with a senior year without any kind faith formation. I started to stray more and more away from the church and at the end of my senior year I was completely faithless. I questioned almost everything about Catholicisim, including the existance of God.
Throughout the summer I dreaded the upcoming school year of attending Franciscan University. Five out of my eight older siblings attended this university and I grew up coming to this school every year to visit. This was not the school I had in mind of attending but I was told it was the only school my parents would pay for so I had no choice. In August I came, still questioning my faith and not entirely sure I still wanted to be Catholic. But, after the first week, I knew this was where I belonged and that this faith was where I belonged. It no longer was my families decision, it was mine, and I chose Catholicism. I can honestly say that my relationship with the Lord is the best it has ever been and I only have this University and my family to thank for that. There are so many oppurtunities here for me to praise and become closer to the Lord. I lived in a predominantly Jewish town and therefore my Church was the only place I had to grow in my faith and after I left my youth group, I had nothing. But, I was wrong, God was with me all along even if I wasnt going to youth group. Retreats, praise and worship or eucharistic adoration are not the only way I can grow in my faith, personal prayer and alone time with God can help my relationship with him as well. And that is where I am right now in my faith journey..I am working on setting aside time to be with God and work on my relationship with him. I have come along way and I have a long way to go but I know that it is a journey worth taking.