James Mangaliman

A call for community

By  James Mangaliman, Youth Speak News
  • October 10, 2014

It has been a month since recent high school graduates like me began their lives outside of the walls of high school. Be it post-secondary education or the workplace, beginning a new chapter in life is like moving away from a place you once called home. The “real world” — that is, the people and culture outside of your home — is seemingly heedless.

Coming from the close knit community of a Catholic high school that shared similar values, beliefs and hope s , and taking on the world of university, in which some class sizes are larger than secondary schools, is a daunting challenge to say the least. My first year university sociology class has roughly 1,200 students. It seems as if we each are no longer the “special” and “unique” person we were made out to be. No phone calls home. And there are fewer familiar faces in a school so big, a world so immense. We can feel as if we are nothing more than a student number in a computer or a passing face in the crowd. We’re certainly not in high school any more.

A distinguishing aspect of Catholic high school life is prayer, an act that many students, myself included, regarded as another mundanity. We often treated acts of faith like prayer and Mass as trivial. We questioned the need to go to Mass and resented “wasted” time spent praying at the start and end of every school day. We tended to overlook the unitive benefit of these religious and spiritual acts. But now that I’m in university, the sound of many voices professing one, Catholic and apostolic faith and the feeling of gathering together for liturgy in one large space are aspects of high school life that — dare I say — I miss ever so much.

This commonality, this togetherness, this sense of belonging united by faith and sharing love and care for one another, is community. As humans we are social beings. We are influenced by, and even thrive on, interaction with others. Isolated from a community we were so attached to and diving headfirst into a new reality can leave one feeling isolated and unimportant. At least, that’s how I have felt these past few weeks.

For some, seeking a community of social solidarity and integrating into it comes naturally. For others, the young especially, starting something new is intimidating. For those university students who, like me, started off their new lives taking shelter in a library or to anyone starting anew, I have this to say: as you grow, the world gets bigger, too big for you to handle by yourself. But the great thing about living in such a vast world is the variety of opportunities to find the people who share your values, beliefs and hopes.

For me, there are choir groups, Bible studies and faith centres. I need only remember a serenity prayer recited in my former high school, which said, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can… Living one day at a time enjoying one moment at a time.” And instantly, the “real world” doesn’t seem so big and uncompromising after all.

(Mangaliman, 18, is a first-year humanities student at the University of Toronto.) 

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