Speaking Out: Growing my faith through friendship

By  Mae Fernandes, Youth Speak News
  • August 25, 2017

For the last year and a half, a friend and I have run a small faith-sharing group for young women. It has turned out to be a far more important experience to my faith than I ever imagined.

I expected it to be just another group. At most, a chance to pray and discuss with others my own age. But, while it is that, it’s also been a quite powerful and often inspiring experience.

Our meeting format is simple: social time, a Bible study with individual reflection and group sharing, maybe a game, tea and snacks, and a lot of laughter.

All the members of our group are young women aged about 18 to 30 years old, but other than that the variety of life and faith experience is wide. Our group includes non-Catholics, converts, university and college students, working women and expectant mothers.

The opportunity to accompany and be accompanied by these women has been a privilege. It has made me realize two things: that experiences like these are extremely important and that they are all too rare.

This experience has been a significant part of my faith journey, especially as I continue to choose Catholicism for myself, independent of my parents.

That’s one reason I think more Catholics could benefit from seeking out or creating opportunities to participate in faith-sharing groups, whatever the format.

Realistically, just going to Mass on Sundays can’t always provide the belonging we need. In fact, many people, including several I know, attend the same church for years and still feel isolated in it.

Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, has called for the parish to be a “community of communities.”

Small groups can be the place in parish life for community to form.

Not only that, but they can be a way for the Mass to continue to transform our day-to-day lives rather than just our Sundays. Our meetings often feel like a reminder, making me stop and reflect on how I live my faith every day.

But most moving to me was the witness of the members of my small group, who shared so many stories and experiences of their struggles and growth.

I am constantly amazed by how open we feel in this group setting. People experienced enough trust to talk about very personal moments in their journey. These conversations were what made me realize running the group was worthwhile, even when I thought about stopping.

Personally, realizing that others shared my struggles, fears and my hope and trust in God was very important as I prepared to enter a new stage of my life.

I’m going to St. Jerome’s University in September, which is both exciting and a little frightening. And one thing that encourages me is that, as I say goodbye to my family, friends and this small group, I’m also looking forward to finding a new faith community.

(Fernandes, 17, is a Grade 12 homeschool student in Dundalk, Ont.)

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