Speaking Out: Finding my way at university

By  Declan Riley, Youth Speak News
  • May 9, 2019

Growing up, there wasn’t the option to not go to church. In our household, if you don’t go to church, you don’t get to celebrate Christmas or Easter, which are two pretty big holidays for a young kid.

But then I moved out of my parents’ home in Westerose, Alta. and went to MacEwan University in Edmonton about an hour away. 

I had no idea what my plan was as a young Catholic moving away from home for the first time, without my parents conveniently driving me to church and encouraging me to go and reminding me that I should go.

Obviously the first week of university was a blur. Just an absolute whirlwind of new things and socializing and learning. But almost as naturally as waking up and checking my phone, on Sunday I went to Mass. 

Being at university, I always had people ask me about my faith. It really made me think. How strong is my faith? Why do I have it? Why do I continue to be a Catholic while I watch others my age walk away from the Church?

Over the years, I’ve crafted an elevator speech for students or anyone who asks: 

Church for me is a tradition. I go with family and in the future, I will take my own family one day. We’ve all seen things in life that we know science or logic can’t explain. And at the very least, it is an hour for me to sit and think and take a break from everyone and my phone.

This speech worked for a long time.

But then I started having Sundays that every Catholic can relate to. Sundays where you start questioning why you’re there, if the messages you’re hearing are even relevant or if the whole concept of religion is real at all.

In 2017, I worked up the courage to talk to a priest about it. Explaining to him how I wasn’t really understanding the idea of God’s plan, some of the rules that the Catholic Church has and what type of presence God has in my life.

Though the priest offered insight, the interaction left me feeling like a dissatisfied customer at a car dealership after hearing a sales associate trying to retain your business for five more years.

The best advice I received about my faith and the doubts I had came from my grandmother in a conversation I had with her a couple years earlier. A devout Catholic for over 70 years, my grandmother explained her faith very simply. 

“We don’t know what is real or true. I hope every day that religion and Christianity are true, but we will never know. And it’s the fact you’re trying to believe that matters,” she said.

This conversation reassured me that not everyone knows and understands every component of their faith. She helped me understand that the way I was feeling wasn’t wrong and the fact that I am questioning my faith may, in fact, lead to my faith strengthening.

I think people will have highs and lows in the faith journey, but the problem is, when we receive something great in life, we consider it a gift from God. 

When we receive something bad in life, we blame God, thinking that if God is great why would He do such a thing to me?

Sometimes in life the events that cause you to question your faith are the ones that end up being the most profound and influential on your faith. We all just need time to see it.

Now, I feel reassured with my faith, I have very few questions about the Church and I find that much like anything in the world, faith will be cyclical. Knowing that there will be times where my faith will waver doesn’t scare me. It is only a matter of time before I will come around full circle.

(Riley, 23, is a third-year journalism student at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alta.)

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