Marie Gamboa realized that living her faith in her public high school can bring about hidden blessings. Photo by Ben White, StockSnap

Speaking Out: Being Catholic in a public school

By  Marie Gamboa, Youth Speak News
  • March 8, 2018
To my peers, it’s no big deal that I’m one of the few Catholics at my public high school, but to me, it’s a huge challenge.

Two reasons: One, I constantly have to motivate myself to learn about my faith on my own time, and two, it’s hard to stand up for my faith-based opinions while I’m submerged in a sea of secular ones.

I came to a public school because it’s close to my house, but the transition from my small Catholic elementary school to a big public high school was scary. I thought school was about getting good grades, staying out of the limelight and making friends. Religion was reserved for after school and weekends. It was like I was leading a double life.

Jesus is always calling us to live with our hearts on fire, but I was doing the opposite. So, this year, I took a leap of faith. I made bold attempts to bring God’s light to school. Each time, I was actually pretty successful.

In January, I had a French presentation about moments in my life that have shaped who I am. I was the only person to bring up religion. I discussed how I used to think God was distant and unreachable but later I realized that I was the distant one and needed to bring my walls down in order to let Him in.

This was when my teacher began sobbing. To my surprise, it was a message he needed to hear. All this time, I had been expecting backlash and disapproval, but this occurrence made me realize that I’ll never know who will be touched by God’s message until I try.

That same month, I was writing an essay on defining happiness for English. I grumbled about it for days. Hardly anyone dares to write a religious argument in a public school, but I knew I had to write about God, who is the only source of perfect happiness.

I hesitantly handed in my essay, praying that I wouldn’t fail. When I got it back, I saw that my teacher had written, “Enjoyed reading this. Thank you for having the courage to write your last paragraphs (about God).” What a relief! This reassured me that taking risks to defend the truth is completely worth it.

Recently, my friend and I convinced our friend to go to a Christian conference this March. She comes from a Buddhist family but she told us that she feels that God is real. For a month, we discussed God’s impact on our lives with her. After much deliberation, she signed up.

I used to think that in a public high school, any mention of God would be frowned upon. But I’ve slowly learned that the absence of God is all the more reason why His light is needed there.

For me, high school turned out to be a mini version of society. I learned that it’s entirely possible to leave an impact when we speak about God in places where His name is often cast aside.

There’ll be people who ostracize us, but there will also be people who agree with us, people we need to inspire and people who need to be introduced to God. We may not convert everyone, but if we touch the life of just one person with God’s message, it’s still a huge step.

(Gamboa, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Markville Secondary School in Markham, Ont.)

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