Faith in the first term

The first term of uni can be a challenge, faith-wise. Living away from home, away from your family and parish community for the first time can really be a time for questioning your faith.

How much of it do you share with your new friends? How do you keep practicing your faith away from your family? Can uni be a time to regain a relationship with God?

Uni is often described a time of self-discovery, where you find out who you really are. And for many of us, our Catholic faith is an integral part of our identity. Uni is the perfect time to explore our faith, and to make it our own!

With second term of uni now underway, we asked some of our friends to share their experience of being a Catholic during their first term at uni.

Lucy Armstrong - Liverpool Hope University

Before coming to uni, I had completely lost touch with my faith. I was confused and felt detached from a community that had been part of my childhood for so long.

My teenage years and religion weren't a good mix - I'd been bored at Church and it felt pointless; relationships with priests were lost, and I wasn't inspired like I once had been.

Coming to uni and enhancing my faith wasn't part of my plan, but it just happened. It provided me with a community and people to turn to when I was feeling lost and often homesick. People who I felt had been a part of me forever. They gave me the power to get through the term, let me cry when I was down and also provided me with lots of laughs and smiles.

Building and growing my faith was an unexpected turn in my first term, but is something I would not change. I've been inspired by so many people and have finally found the enjoyment in going to Mass on a Sunday evening. I've started to explore my beliefs further instead of turning away from something that has always been there.

Ben O'Flynn - Lancaster University

Before I went to university, people would always say to me: "Don't give up on your faith at university", or "try not to lose sight of God when you go to university". This filled me with apprehension, because I knew I loved God and I didn't want to deny Him a place in my life.

When I arrived, the whole experience of Freshers' Week was what I expected: partying and meeting countless new people (and then forgetting them the next morning!), but what I didn't expect was to be going to Church during the week. Towards the end of the week, a prayer session was held at our university chaplaincy centre for people of all faiths - just to reflect on the week and look forward to the term ahead.

Now I have finished that term, I feel as though my faith has become even stronger during my time at university, With the help of a good Catholic Society; brilliant chaplaincy centre; fantastic priest, and an amazing group of people, my faith has become stronger than ever, my prayer life better than ever, and I have an overwhelming love for God.

I feel that if you are willing to keep God in your life at university and give Him the time that He wants to spend with you, you have nothing to fear!

To paraphrase a Benedictine monk I met on retreat at Ampleforth Abbey:

"Faith is just like a relationship with God. If you give it time, talk to God, listen to God, and go to see God, then it will flourish. If you don't, it will not succeed."

Alice Hewson - University of York

'Apprehensive' is probably the word I would use to describe my feelings before I started university. I am naturally a worrier anyway, so couldn't quite conjure up the same excitement for this massive change like all my friends.

New city. New people. New schedule...

There were so many unknowns in my future that I was so grateful for the one constant - God.

Before starting university, I did a gap year in Youth Ministry at Castlerigg Manor, so I'd spent a year living in community with some of the most amazing, faithful, and inspiring people I know. I'd spent so much time focussing and developing my faith and was scared my relationship with God wouldn't be the same without all these things. I'd heard many people say that faith at university can be hard, so I went in with the mindset that I wanted to be myself - faith included.

Within the first few days of Freshers, I had already had lots of conversations with people about my faith, and this continued for the rest of my first term. Some people have questions, some are open, some are closed, and some just don't care - and that's fine.

I was expecting all of that, and just feel so blessed that all the friends I've found at uni are so accepting, loving, and encouraging of me and my faith.

So, despite my fears, I did not feel abandoned by God.

He was with me from the day I moved in, when I prayed the Rosary in the car, hoping it would calm my nerves (it did). He was there, encouraging me to go to Mass, CathSoc, and CU - giving me opportunities to meet other Christians. He was there in lectures, in revision, and He was there even when I didn't realise.

My first term at university as a Catholic was like life as a Catholic - challenging at times, but full of joy, love and happiness.

Rachel Jordan - University of Chester

The first term at university was a fun but hectic time for me. I found that people had a limited understanding of what it is to be Catholic, and so were curious about what it means. Over the first few weeks, I must have had faith-related conversations several times.

My flatmates had so many questions - why I don't eat meat on Fridays, how Catholics pray, how we interpret the Bible and so much more besides.

It was also odd for me to adjust my internal timetable - at home, I attend Saturday Vigil Mass with my family each week, but at uni I go to Mass on a Sunday night, followed by CathSoc. The CathSoc community here has provided a great support for my faith in my time here so far.

It was also quite strange for me - having moved from Catholic education throughout my life, to an Anglican university, where Mass is held across town, rather than in a chapel just around the corner.

Saying this, I don't feel like being a Catholic has affected my experience of university in comparison to other people. Everyone lives their lives differently, and practicing my faith is how I live mine.

Alice Pennington - University of Birmingham

Starting university was both one of the most exciting things I've ever done, but also one of the most nerve-wracking. Amidst the stacks of pots, pans, things for my new room, and meeting my new flatmates on Facebook, I messaged a friend I already knew at the University of Birmingham about Fresher's Week, and we got onto a conversation about CathSoc.

Little did I know at the time, it would become one of my favourite parts about university...

From nights out to lectures, Fresher's Fair to CathSoc Curry night; Fresher's Week was packed with meeting lots of new people and having loads of fun. By the end of the week, I was absolutely shattered. I was having the most amazing time, but I felt like there was something missing.

I went to Newman House on Sunday evening, and as I was sat in Mass, everything seemed to click into place. I reflected on the week - everything I'd done and everyone I'd met. I realised in that moment that this was where I was meant to be.

After Mass, I went along to the BBQ social. There's also been a quiz night, a Ceilidh, and a Christmas party - to mention just a few of the CathSoc events. Sunday evening Mass, followed by a social every week is both the perfect end to the week, and the greatest way to start the following one.

As the weeks went by, I started to attend more CathSoc events. For example, on Wednesday afternoons, I go to the Ladies' group at Costa. We have a chat, catch up and discuss different aspects of our faith. It's been so helpful in settling in, and is a bit like having sisters at university to talk to and give you advice. I've also been to two 'Societies Nights' (dressing as a cupcake for the first!). It's an all-round fun night, and a little bit like a sports night, but without any initiations! I've also been to Holy Hour, carol singing, Christmas markets, and so much more!

Joining CathSoc has been one of the best decisions I've made. It's helped me settle into university far more easily, make so many new friends, and I've met so many wonderful people who really inspire me with my faith. Being a young person of faith isn't always easy, and often presents challenges, but CathSoc makes it a lot easier.

Looking back on my first semester, CathSoc has truly blessed me with so many incredible moments and memories. I couldn't imagine my uni experience without it, and I can't wait for the many more to come!

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