Stewart Langley hugs his sponsor, Jose Arnal, after he was confirmed this past Easter at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kingston. Photo courtesy of Stewart Langley

Students’ search for truth lead to campus conversions

By  Mirjana Villeneuve, Youth Speak News
  • May 2, 2018

When relativism is the widely accepted doctrine on university campuses, backed by the feel-good motto of “you do you,” it’s easy to imagine how young Catholics might be swept away by the notion that there is no objective truth. 

But then, there are others, like Crystal O’Dea, who have sought out and found truth in the Catholic Church.

The 22-year-old Queen’s University student said she was active in the Anglican Church until she started school in 2014. Her busy campus life, O’Dea said, often took precedence over her faith life and she drifted away from God. 

In 2017, O’Dea was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. This was a wake-up call and she realized that God is her only consolation in times of despair. She started looking into the Catholic faith in search of the knowledge and community she felt she was missing in the Protestant church. 

She started to visit the Newman House Catholic Chaplaincy regularly and said she was swept away by the acceptance and love she encountered. 

“There’s just this giant community of Catholic students and they all wanted to be my friend,” she said. “It was like joining a family.”

O’Dea decided this was the answer to her search.

In September 2017, she began taking classes for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at St. Joseph’s Church in Kingston, Ont. At the Easter Vigil (March 31) this year, she was formally received into the Church.

“When I was confirmed, Msgr. Joseph Lynch put the oil on my forehead and I just started bawling,” she said. “I felt this overwhelming sense of peace, like I was coming home.”

Stewart Langley, 20, also found a home in the Catholic Church this past Easter. The third-year biochemistry student grew up in the United Church, but faith wasn’t a big part of his family’s life.

When he came to Queen’s he was met with a culture of partying and instant gratification, and like many students discovered there was still an emptiness in his life.

When one of his friends came back from a mission trip with Catholic Christian Outreach a changed person, Langley became curious. He started exploring Catholicism and realized there exists something bigger than himself.

Apostolic succession, papal authority and the fact that God Himself is the founder attracted him to the Church.

“It seemed that, if there is a true religion, Catholicism would be that true religion,” he said.

In September 2017, he began RCIA classes at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kingston and started the difficult process of changing his lifestyle. Langley felt anxious just before receiving the sacraments during the Easter Vigil. But his worries quickly disappeared the moment he returned to his pew after receiving Communion for the first time.

“I felt so strong,” he said. “It was like I was a sponge and all this water was poured on me. I felt so full, like my mind and heart just expanded and I was filled with so much grace and strength.” 

Edward Burroughs found that same grace when he was received into the Church in February 2015. Burroughs, 22, began researching Catholicism in his second year at Queen’s, received the sacraments in his third year and now is preparing to enter the Eastern Province of the Dominicans this summer.

He credits the witness of C.S. Lewis, St. John Paul II and Mother Teresa for drawing him to the faith. Later, it was older peers in the Catholic community on campus and working closely with Fr. Raymond de Souza that lead him on the path to full conversion. 

He said joining the Dominicans, an order of preachers, seems to be a natural continuation of his journey be ever nearer to Christ.

(Villeneuve, 21, is a third-year Concurrent Education student at Queen’s University.)

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