Catholic young adult Nolan Toscano’s adaptability was put to the test as the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to finish his fourth year of studies at the University of Ottawa from home. Photo courtesy Nolan Toscano

Catholic students coping with a new landscape

By  Mary French, Youth Speak News
  • April 29, 2020

Saying goodbye to her friends and her school halfway through the second term was the last thing that 15-year-old Kaylyn Keays expected.

“I’ve gained an appreciation for things I took for granted, simple things like going outside when I want or going to see friends,” says the Grade 10 student from St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Tottenham, Ont., just one of billions of people worldwide whose daily lives have been upended in the last few months.

Indeed, the outbreak of COVID-19 that has infected more than two and a half million people in more than 200 countries has impacted most of the planet.

Though not affected by COVID-19 on the same scale as older generations, young people — shut out of their schools, churches and much of their normal daily routine — still have to grapple with the virus. Being separated from grandparents and friends, and adjusting to e-learning and social distancing, Keays explains, are discouraging and painful for students.

“I’ll probably visit my grandma first (after all this is over), and go see my friends. This (pandemic) makes me realize how much they mean to me and how much I value having them in my life.”

Seeing the struggles of her peers, Keays hopes they can have the courage to stay positive and remember nothing lasts forever. She finds times of adversity have helped her turn to prayer more often, looking to God for the answers and strength.

Nolan Toscano, in the last year of his honours program in political science and history at the University of Ottawa, has likewise found these times challenging. However, the abrupt farewell to his undergraduate years has also unearthed courage found in his faith. He believes this quarantine period is a prime opportunity to develop one’s relationship with God.

“This virus has broken the routine within our religion,” said the 21-year-old. “We can realize if we are not living a spiritual life. Are we living as if God is worth fighting for? Some will realize through this that their faith was really a routine.”

Toscano believes there will be a new normal after this, a reminder that, in the end, we cannot get comfortable in this world.

“It makes me ask: What is my focus? Where do I naturally place my reliances? How do I live a spiritual, sacramental life outside the usual structured way?”

He adds that this virus can be a chance to grow into better people and Catholics, an opportunity to hope in God despite things being out of our control.

Sofia Malpica, a Bachelor of Arts student finishing her second year at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., remarks that the virus completely disoriented the already most challenging part of the semester. Assignments being cut and added, as well as the distractions that accompany working at home and online, creates a more difficult end to the school year. Nonetheless, the 20-year-old has found many valuable lessons amid this chaos.

“I feel like I’ve had so much spiritual growth through this drought,” said Malpica. “I have searched for Christ in a more personal way. He is not just at Church. We should take this time dispensed from the sacraments not to be lax, but to grow spiritually and seek those opportunities to encounter God.”

(French, 21, is a third-year student at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.)

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