Humans of Catholic Hoos: Anna Jones and Maria Przybysz (5/19/2023)
How does this person inspire you?
Anna: Maria is just very kind and generous. She wants to become a nurse, and I think it truly takes someone special to want to do that because you really are serving people all day, and you’re dealing with people when they’re not at their best. But in the way Maria carries herself you can see that she has kindness and she carries Jesus along with her in her day.
Maria: Anna inspires me because she is one of the most thoughtful people. Being roommates I feel has been very special, because it’s almost like we’re not just friends but sisters. I just love being able to say goodnight to you, and she always is very thoughtful — like, if I’m ever hungry, you give me snacks! I love being able to go to Mass with her and feel like my true self, because I have a lot of friends who aren’t Catholic or Christian. It’s nice being able to share this part of me, because the most important part of my life is Jesus. Anna: We read our Common App essays together and mine was about my journey with the faith and how it ebbed and flowed. I went to Mass with my dad, and then after he passed I went with my grandma, and so it was my weekly tradition to go with special people. Then that Sunday I was going to Mass, and I thought, “I’ve got Maria now!”
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Anna Yankoski (12/15/2022)
In what ways does youth ministry influence your relationship with Christ?
Anna: The main way that it has influenced my relationship with Christ is being able to watch other people’s relationships with Christ grow and just seeing how fruitful it is, especially in high school teens because they are not really that much younger than us. Watching them be able to grow so much in their relationships is awe-inspiring for me. It’s so good to see them develop more of a prayer life and be able to pray with each other and make faithful friendships. It’s so good! And I can do that, too. I get to walk with them and experience it myself. We also have a discipleship team that is made up of student leadership. Watching them not only grow in their leadership skills, but also their own relationship with Christ and leading other people in that is really cool to see. It’s also extra fun for me because this age group is who I want to teach in the future!
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Fr. Walter Wagner, O.P. (12/5/2022)
What is one lesson you’ve learned while serving at UVA?
Fr. Walter: One of the lessons that I’ve learned is the unique culture of each place. I was in New York City for 11 years, basically living in Manhattan. Coming from New York and moving here meant understanding a whole other culture – a political, cultural, religious, spiritual dynamic. It’s not that one is right and the other is wrong, or that one is better than the other in some way. It’s realizing something integral to the Christian faith, which is that the Gospel responds to the complexity of individual people and the complexity of groups. I’m a representative of that Gospel and it’s my work to try to understand the complexity in front of me, or at least to begin to perceive it so that I can make a response to it in what I say or write. What I say or write here might take a different tone or different tack than what I said or wrote in New York, even though the Gospel is the same and God is the same. You’re trying to get what is eternal into a time and a place. If I had to isolate one lesson, it’s that. There’s one way in which people are the same. People are people, but there’s another way in which the differences in culture and history have to be profoundly respected.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Chloe Smith (11/17/2022)
Who or what pushed you to enter the Catholic Church?
Chloe: I think with the “who,” it really was the Holy Spirit leading me in the beginning. As it continued, He drew in more people to support me, especially when I really felt isolated. With the “what,” it began with curiosity. Christ was very gentle and patient with me. On one hand, it seemed very wild for me to change my entire religion in the span of one year of serious researching. But on the other hand, the past 6 months I had been going kicking and screaming because I knew Catholicism was true, but I was telling myself that I didn’t because I didn’t want it. I think that it was just that slow, conversion of heart that He loves to do. I was resisting and tightening, but then slowly accepting and letting Him draw me in over time. It was scary, but the Catholic Church is intellectually complete. It is whole. I thought no one was happy for me except for a few friends, like Benjamin, Kyle, and Olivia Firsching. But since then, he has brought so many people into my life. I remember when I had to pick a sponsor, I asked my friend Bejamin if he wanted to be it and he told me to find a woman who I wanted to be like. I felt like I didn’t know any Catholic women and I didn’t know what to do with that. I prayed that God would send me women mentors in the faith. And He gave me several! There are so many people He has given me to ask questions to and relate to. He is constantly trying to comfort me from something that I really had to mourn, even though my conversion was such a joy. He has really blessed me and drawn me calmly and gently over the years.
It’s so incredible now being able to go and receive the Eucharist and being like “This is you, Lord!” One of the mysteries of the Rosary that really resonates with me is the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple because that’s literally still where He is – He’s in the tabernacle. He was there this whole time and I knew Him, but I hadn’t seen Him physically like that.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Emma Fuentes, Liz Tomlin, and Claire Ames (11/7/2022)
How do you practice the faith together?
Emma: It’s nice when the three of us are sitting and talking and our conversation is revolving around prayer and God. It’s like He is in that chair over there, sitting there with us. People talk about how you have your time to hang out, but it doesn’t have to be separated. It can be that you’re hanging out and God is always with us. It’s not just that He is always with you, you’re also always with Him. It’s nice to be with people when it’s not like “this is my time away from prayer, away from God, so I can decompress.” You’re going to be your full self when you are remaining in the presence of God and doing your earthly things.
Liz: We go to Mass a lot together, most days actually. At the end of the summer, it was just me and Emma hanging out all the time. After she got off work, since I was just free all the time, we would go to Mass at 5:15, then do a holy hour after, and then go have dinner or go on a run. It was this constant development of friendship in God through Mass, prayer, and quality time. It’s really awesome to have this friendship where it’s constantly being brought back to God, not even on purpose. On my own, before hanging out with you guys so much, it was not as full. I wasn’t even thinking about doing holy hours before we started doing them. So it’s easy to recognize that it’s not me, it’s God. He is putting people and ideas in my life.
Claire: There is a consistency that I’ve grown in this year. Going to Mass more consistently and praying more consistently is something I’ve learned from this friendship and I’m definitely still growing in. With going to Mass together, we also veil together. I was considering veiling for a long time. I think I wanted to, but I didn’t realize I wanted to – I just knew that it was a beautiful practice. But seeing others veiling and then the three of us veiling together made me a lot more comfortable. There’s also a lot of sharing bits of wisdom. Every now and then we’ll call each other out on little things or ask, “Is this something I should stop doing?” and I always appreciate the honesty. Emma: Especially with female friendships, you can really dive into the whole femininity thing. It allows you to recognize the beauty of masculinity and femininity as separate entities which can contribute to one another. But also just talking about modesty with each other. It can be a difficult thing to figure out on your own and if you don’t have people with whom to confer on it it’s hard to know how to go about it.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Walker Pollard (11/4/2022)
How have Catholic friendships pushed you to grow in the faith?
Walker: I started getting to know people mostly in the grade above me, like Sean, Will, and Alex Poley through bible study. And just by being around them, they would be like “Hey, we’re gonna go play football.” “Sick let’s go play football.” But then after that they’d ask if I wanted to go to Mass or pray a Rosary or something, and then it’s like “Oh yeah, I’ll do that, too.” Through that and through getting to know them better is what led me here. I was raised Catholic and everything, so I already wanted to go to Mass on Sundays, but I guess I never had examples or role models as to how to do more than that. Becoming friends with the folks in the ministry allowed me to see how fulfilling, fruitful, and awesome those guys’ lives really were. And then being like “Alright, let’s try and do that, too.” Nowadays, living in a house with four other Catholic guys is really helpful. We push each other. You always have someone around to ask whatever questions about saints or teachings. I live with some really smart guys and I’m just sitting there like a sponge like “How do I be like these people?”
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Thomas Boak (10/22/2022)
What drew you to get involved in your faith through Catholic Hoos?
Thomas: I had been planning to get involved once I decided to go to UVA, but then meeting some people over the summer made me feel more comfortable going to events once I got to UVA. I think in meeting other Catholics in my year and becoming friends with them, I wanted to keep coming back to events. It was fun because we’d hang out outside of events, too, and it made it more fun going to things together. I also enjoyed the different faith-related events, like going to Mass and adoration. I enjoyed going to the social events, but it was also nice to have a group of people to just go to Mass with. It helps me grow in my faith also when I see other people who are very invested and focused on growing in their own faith, too.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Lily Bernero and Trina Barcarola (10/2/2022)
How do you see this person give glory to God through athletics and in their daily life?
Lily: It is the funniest irony to me that Trina is a pole vaulter and the entire point of her sport is to get as high into the air as possible, because the biggest thing she has taught me about living as a disciple of Christ and a D1 athlete is how to stay grounded. The life we live is busy. It’s fast, it’s a lot of emotions, it’s a lot of responsibilities. It is an easy thing to get lost in – it really is. Trina has taught me so much about what it means to be grounded in our faith and orienting our performance, our efforts, and our actions towards the Lord. It has been an incredible joy for me to learn from her and direct my efforts in my sport and in my daily life towards the Lord and stay grounded in His truth and promises. There is nothing grounded about her sport, but she is one of the most grounded people I’ve ever met.
Trina: I love the irony. That’s so funny. This is a great question because I love Lily’s sport. There are so many aspects of it that you can view through a spiritual lens. The trust she has to have for her teammates and the reliability she has to provide when in the boat. Lily is so accustomed to the concept of trusting, especially in her relationship with the Lord. She also knows at her core what consistency and reliability looks like and how practicing this in her relationship with the Lord allows her to hear his voice and see him work in her life. It has been such a joy to watch Lily develop in her relationship with rowing and connect that to God. Despite the long, demanding hours of her sport, Lily always recalibrates in the walls of Saint Thomas Aquinas’s adoration chapel. It is beautiful and inspiring to see a friend who actively reminds herself of what is truly important in the midst of her obligations and busy schedule.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Aubrey Leaser (5/9/2022)
How has the Catholic community influenced your relationship with the faith?
Aubrey: While I got some more independence in my faith in high school, that was really completed coming into college and being part of Catholic Hoos because in college you come and it’s really on you to become a part of something, a part of a community. Meeting people in my first year class, it was really cool to see people from all different backgrounds. Maybe they didn’t have Catholic high school like I did, but they were so dead set on their faith and wanting to live it out in college. To have that companionship was something profound because these were some 18-year-olds whose culture tells them to do everything but what goes on in Catholic Hoos. That really pushed me forward and confirmed what I had known from childhood into high school. It gave me a foundation to continue to grow deeper in my faith and continue to live it out in a community with like-minded peers, to solidify that this was where I needed to be. It’s so much easier when you have people to hold you accountable and push you to go deeper. I think especially Emi Cueto in my first year bible study has always been there. She’s always been a year older, pushing me to go a little bit further. It’s just amazing to have that person and those connections. I found within my first year class a solid group of people, but it’s the students who were above me that were really the example that I tried to follow as I grew. And to come back and be a third year, I’ve tried to replicate that with my own twist by being part of team and getting to do things with TSUP.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Emma Hearington and Maelee Hearington (5/27/2022)
How does your sister draw you closer to the person of Christ?
Emma: That’s been a major meditation for me, especially over Lent, and in particular, Christ’s humanity and how He selflessly pours out for His people. Very much, I think this is reflected in Maelee and her personhood, from the devotion she has to her students, being full-time as a student teacher, and also seeing how she very intentionally pours into her Bible study. It’s complete and whole-hearted, the way that she is devoted to the service of others. In a fully human person, that exactly mimics Christ. Before college, for sure, and then coming into college, I did not know where I saw myself going and I was pulled in a lot of different directions. We’ve always been there with one another and we’ve been best friends forever and so I can trust her. I know that that trust I have in Maelee comes because she’s proven herself to me time and time again to be reliable and to have my best interests at heart. When she was first getting involved in Catholic Hoos, particularly in Bible study, she really encouraged me to do the same. I didn’t really know what that meant or what that looked like because our youth ministry at home wasn’t super strong, but I knew that she loved me and that she wanted what was good for me, so I could trust that that was a good desire that she had for me. Because of me trusting her, it made me trust the faith more.
Maelee: Christ is the epitome of humility and that is very clearly shown in his humility in taking on flesh, as divinity, in order to commune with us. That is really emphasized in Emma’s constant vocation, at least little “v” vocation right now as a nurse with serving the ill, and the forgotten, and people who often are deemed unlovable, because Christ’s will on the earth was one of sacrifice and utter commitment to doing what’s hard in order to prioritize and advocate for what’s good and beautiful and true. Emma does that everyday, from working with infants who literally can’t defend themselves, to elderly who have been forgotten, to patients who don’t have any family. Whatever the case may be, she loves very recklessly and I think that intentionality helps others also want to love recklessly like Christ. Christ looks at every single person and sees the whole person, and I think Emma does just the same to the best of her human capacity. If Emma, a human, can love me so well, I can only begin to imagine the depths of the love of Christ. I was thinking about what kind of funny story I could share about laying down one’s life. Emma and I were in Senior assassins together in high school and the example that I thought of was when my assassin was outside in our front yard. Emma and I were running around in our backyard – anywhere behind the fence was safe. Emma looks at me and she’s like, “I know what we have to do.” We run inside and in a matter of 30 seconds we take off our clothes and put on the other person’s clothes. That way it could be a diversion and she would run, pretending to be me, so I could get to my car and not get killed. Emma constantly, funnily or not, will lay down her life in service of another. Emma: Let it be known, too, that I outran Maelee’s assassin. It was hilarious because as Maelee’s assassin was approaching me, winded and giving up, I was like, “it doesn’t matter, I’m not even Maelee!” When she got close enough to see me she was like “oh my gosh, I’ve been bamboozled!”
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Ian Rush (5/25/2022)
What made you want to become a Catholic missionary?
Ian: It was not on my radar in college. When I entered college I wanted to do physical therapy at first. Throughout college, I was very, very slowly coming back to my faith. I viewed it as something that was intriguing. I was learning a lot on Youtube, listening to apologetics, going to Mass, but I didn’t know any of the prayers. For background, I was baptized and got First Communion, but I didn’t think faith was something to take seriously – I thought it was just a nice thing to have or whatever. So I was doing that but I was also living another life that wasn’t too virtuous. But that left me empty. Even in pursuing school and physical therapy, I could see myself doing it, but I wasn’t particularly attracted to it. I was like, “am I only made to just do this 9 to 5 and have no real joy in it?” It wasn’t until my senior year when I started to dive deeper. I gave God a chance, I gave the community a chance. That’s when I met FOCUS. That’s when I met all these people that were so faithful and so joyful. They talked deeply with me. That was the first time I’d had deep conversations with them, or with anyone, for so long – it was so refreshing. I was very excited to talk with people and I started really enjoying going to events. I found a lot of peace in it. Come my second semester senior year, my discipler was like, “Hey you should apply. You clearly care and your name keeps coming up when I think about it.” So I did apply. I didn’t think much of it, but when I went to the interview weekend, I really enjoyed meeting other people. That’s when I started to really think about wanting to be a missionary, wanting to help men. I believe that men nowadays are lost, like I was lost. They don’t have direction, like I didn’t have direction. And just in the ways that they try to find meaning in the wrong things, I try to find meaning in the wrong things. It was a great gift to encounter God and finally find peace. That was the reason why I wanted to be a missionary, so that I could share that because I know so many guys that don’t know God.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Brittany Worthington and Belén Loza (5/15/2022)
How does this person inspire you as a missionary?
Brittany: When you’re a missionary, it can be really easy to see the need and to think that you have to do it all, or to think that you have to outreach to every single person. But I think Belén does a really good job of going deep with a few people and prioritizing that. She lives the mission very well and is very intentional. It’s inspired me on mission to remember “Okay, why am I actually here?” At the end of the day, it’s to bring people closer to Jesus. Belén does a good job of prioritizing that in all of her relationships with the people that she serves and with her team as well. It’s almost like putting first things first and putting things into the right priority that relationship with God comes before anything else. If anything is getting in the way of that, then those other things need to be cut out – even if they are good things, they need to go. She inspires me to always pursue deeper intimacy with Christ and to put that above anything else that I even begin to think about. Or if things start to get wonky or disordered in my life, reminding me, “No, you have to pursue the Father and allow the Father to pursue you.”
Belén: I think there’s two words that came to mind. One was “play,” and allowing mission to be a fruit of her relationship with the Lord and first being a child of God, and then the invitation being spread wide of inviting people into that joy and into that play. The other thing was “zeal.” I think Brittany has a lot of zeal for bringing people in, a lot of zeal for pursuing the lost sheep. I think the pursuit is really something I’ve learned a lot from Brittany. I think it’s a boldness, and just the way that she brings us back to mission and what we’re here to do – which is to have relationships with people. Yes, we do other things. Yes, we plan things. But everything always comes back to relationship, and I think that’s something Brittany is very good at. I’ve felt that in the way that I’ve been pursued as a teammate and in the way that I’ve seen her pursue students.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Emi Cueto and Cata Cueto (4/11/2022)
How does your sister inspire you in the faith? Emi: Cata has taught me a lot about forgiveness – what it means to forgive and to be forgiven. We grew up as roommates so we had our fair share of spats. But we could never stay angry at each other for long. And just recognizing that because we knew the person so well, we knew the person was more than just a feeling or a fault – just seeing the whole person. And, yes, of course I’m glad I can’t stay angry at Cata for long because she’s my sister and she’s so much more than this one hiccup, which is just awesome to think about too with the Father. He looks past our failings and sees the whole person, and desires to reinstate relationship as soon as possible. Cata: I feel like Emi, as with any older sister figure, is a role model. Yes, I went to Mass and all of that when I was little, but she was probably the first one who I really noticed would read the Bible actively and do journaling and meditations and all of that. I really experienced that through her primarily. I think she was the introduction and then when I noticed her doing it, I then noticed other people doing it as well. She helped me see a deeper devotion towards Christ and saints, and just showed me prayer in general. She would always be like, “I’m struggling with something, I’m going to adoration!” and then just drive off. So she definitely brought me closer in that context which is really a joy.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Joey Kagel (4/10/2022)
Tell me a glory story.
Joey: Getting to this university was one of the biggest examples of God’s plan in my life and it’s really shown His dominion over our lives. Coming out of high school, I was not recruited for football that much. I kept on praying “God, what do you want for my life? Where do you want me to go? Who do you want me to be with? What kind of person do you want me to be?” January of 2021 I got a call from UVA to walk-on and I committed right on the spot because I knew that that was the place where I was wanted and where God wanted me to be. It just worked out so perfectly. At that moment I realized whatever I thought was going to happen for my life wasn’t always gonna be what was the best thing for my life. I was planning on going to the Ivy Leagues, but once the pandemic happened, that whole pipeline dried up because their seasons got canceled. So that plan that I thought I had for my life was really going on what I thought was beneficial for me. It showed that God is not going to put you in a position for you to fail. That process, and even when you fail, it is making you into a better person and allowing you to trust in the Lord’s plan. Coming here I got to meet so many great people and have had so many great experiences already as a first year. I’m still working as hard as I can for the glory of God – not in order to impress Him because I know nothing I can do is going to change how much He loves me, but in order to use my platform in any way to help anyone in need and share the faith through football.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Phil Bongiorno (4/9/2022)
What is your favorite part about being Catholic?
Phil: I love the faith because of how its beauty shines through the journey of living it out. In growing to understand more about the “whys” of the teachings of the faith and living out the faith, it shows that it’s not just a set of rules to follow – it’s the fullness of beauty, truth, and goodness. Living those things out and growing in understanding of those teachings has drawn me closer to understanding the fullness of the love of God and understanding how God is not just a “corporate taskmaster” (in the words of Fr. Mario) that is giving us arbitrary rules to govern our life, but rather they flow from a fount of pure love and pure truth. Witnessing that in the sacraments, the beauty of sacred art, the beauty of the Eucharist, the truth of the Mass, and the goodness of the community of Catholic Hoos and the community of Catholics in general just shows how authentic and good our faith is. Meditating on those beautiful aspects of the faith and seeking truth enhances the experience of the faith. God, so generous and infinitely present, actively chose to allow us to partake in and discover His love for us. Through the fullness of what is purely beautiful, true, and good, we can come to discover the person of God who is, and His plan uniquely set out for us through the fullness of His love.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Casey Nestor and Caroline Bell (3/15/2022)
What qualities do you admire about this person?
Caroline: I think Casey is one of the best listeners I’ve ever encountered. Any time I have an issue, she makes me feel so seen. But in the same way, her responses are so driven by the Holy Spirit. I feel that the Holy Spirit speaks through her everytime that she speaks to me. And anytime that I’ve run into an issue or encountered something that’s difficult, I really feel as if she is teaching me while also just comforting me. I can definitely feel the Father’s love because she reminds me of all the truths that so often in the chaos of life I forget. The way that she listens and the way that she can find how the Father is working through all of that difficulty is just something that I totally admire.
Casey: One thing that has always stuck out to me, even before we became really close friends, is just the way that even in her commitments and busy schedule Caroline has such intentionality with the ways that she develops and maintains authentic relationships with people. Just in the capacity of her family, with her friends, Caroline is so generous with her time. It’s so tempting, especially in the UVA culture, to become bogged down with your work or to make that your priority, but Caroline balances that so well with investing in people. I see that in the little interactions with people she knows really well and with people she’s meeting for the first time. Like the ways that she makes eye contact with people, the ways that she listens, the ways that she goes out of her way to interact with people who might not be the most social. She just has a gift for making another person feel included and feel like a priority and I have been the recipient of that in so many ways.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Olivia Chiappetta and Isabel Robles (3/5/2022)
How does this friend draw you closer to the person of Christ? Olivia: I think that sharing our experiences with the faith together has been really nice. Going to Catholic Hoos events and knowing that I have somebody to go with makes the experience a lot better. Isabel encourages me to attend more events and go to Mass together. I feel like with our class of 2025 there’s a lot of guys in the ministry but not a ton of girls – it’s just been nice that I’m able to have a close friendship. And she’s always up for an adventure, whether that’s going to a basketball game or going on runs together. We push each other both physically while we’re running but also in the faith. Isabel: Sometimes we’ve talked about routines that we have for prayer in our daily life and for some of the things Olivia says I’m like “Oh that sounds like a really good idea, I’m gonna try that.” It’s helped me figure out what to do in my prayer life and different ways of praying. And a lot of times I’ll be unsure if I’m going to an event and then I’ll text Olivia and be like “Are you going?” and she’ll be like “Yeah!” “Great! I’m going too.” And I think Olivia is one of the nicest people I know. Whenever I hang out with her it makes me wanna be nicer. I feel like I can be kind of mean sometimes.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Alex Poley (3/3/2022)
How has your zeal for the apostolate shaped your faith?
Alex: One of the things I came to the conclusion of is zeal is the by-product of trust in the Lord and in His providence. When we’re living out our lives, zeal only comes about when we have a deep trust in the Lord, if we trust His plan for our lives. It’s not on us to create this plan. If we trust in the Lord and follow His nudgings and His providence, it’s so simple and beautiful. This idea of the importance and primacy of the interior life, and honestly Soul of the Apostolate, have really shaped my ideas of how formation should look. A lot of my ideas for ministry are like “Okay, how do we do this? How do we get people to grow closer to Christ? How do we get people to grow deeper?” But quite honestly it’s less about what we do and really more about setting a tone. It’s really about a culture, I suppose, and less about specific things. In our apostolate, our goal should not be to have the works be our own. The goal should be to have our works be the works of the Father. And I always find very important the idea that we can do nothing outside of Christ.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Ben Gustafson (4/22/2021)
Who or what pushed you to enter the Catholic Church? How did you end up where you are now?
Ben: I’d say the shortest answer is that God was calling me to the church. I’ve realized He was calling me to the church for a long time. I always really enjoyed going to my Presbyterian Church growing up and I really cherished a lot of those experiences, but as I got older in high school and in college I realized that there was just something missing from my faith. I couldn’t really put my finger on it. So, I began asking questions and reading about where people find their meaning in their lives. I just realized that a relationship with God is the only way to get true meaning in life. So, I started reading about Catholicism just by the grace of God and a friend invited me to Mass but I wasn’t super comfortable and I didn’t really understand it. I continued thinking about it over the next year and this past winter break I just started asking this friend every question I had and started watching as many YouTube videos I could about Catholicism like Ascension Presents and Bishop Robert Barron videos. My friend invited me to SEEK and that is where I just was showered by God’s grace and was so inspired by the speakers and was so inspired by the holiness, the authenticity, and the vulnerability of the people in my small group. I knew that the Catholic Church is where my home was. Over the course of this semester, I went through RCIA and I became closer with the FOCUS missionaries and started meeting Catholic people through homeless ministry and other Catholic Hoos activities. I was blessed to be Confirmed and receive First Communion at the Easter Vigil and now I really understand what people mean when they say “Welcome Home” –I didn’t totally understand that at first but I definitely feel like the Catholic Church is home.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Ben Motta and James de Marcellus (4/17/2021)
What qualities do you admire about this person?
James: I think some of the qualities I admire most about Ben is how straightforward he is. He will tell me what he thinks about something. It is really, really great to have a roommate and friend that is straightforward with you and does not leave you guessing. He is really willing to hold me accountable and is not afraid to call me out, which I love. It is best put as ordinary holiness. He is an all-around solid person. The way he lives is just like the Little Way. He does little things with great love. He is not “out of touch” or “holier than thou” but he is constantly challenging me to do better and grow closer to God. He is a really honest person.
Ben: I think the quality I most admire about James is he has an abundance of dedication to just about everything. Whenever I turn around, James is working on something. Whether it is prepping for altar serving and studying the altar serving booklet over and over again to make sure he has everything right, even though he has been an altar server for 9 years. Or grinding out calculus WebAssigns first thing on a SATURDAY MORNING. Or working on a politics essay. Whenever I turn around James is dedicating himself to something, whether it is religious, academic, personal. That dedication is always applied to a very high standard. It is nice to live with someone who holds themselves to a high standard and is not afraid to hold you to those high standards and someone who has dedication to things that hold value. The loyalty to the things that he cares about is really impressive.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Kendall Peterson and Caroline Wack (4/13/2021)
How does this friend draw you closer to the person of Christ?
Caroline: I feel like a big part of our friendship is rooted in sacraments. With Kendall, I am able to be vulnerable and talk about my faith with her. That is something I have not had in past relationships. I feel comfortable talking about that with her and that draws me closer to Christ. I also see Christ in the way that she listens to me and the way that she responds and gives me advice.
Kendall: Vulnerability is a big part of that. When you are able to be vulnerable with someone who is in love with the person of Christ, you are able to be vulnerable with the person of Christ Himself. It is so easy to be vulnerable with Caroline because she is such a down-to-earth, humble, kind person. It is just easy to talk to her. I think by practicing that vulnerability and holding each other accountable, it helps us to hold one another accountable with Christ and to guide our relationship more and more towards Him through each other.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Reed Golomb (4/3/2021)
How has youth ministry changed your life?
Reed: When I initially came to UVA I had the intention of studying foreign affairs and then going into the State Department to work as a foreign service officer or do something with the Peace Corps. I accidentally got caught up in youth ministry at the Pig Roast. You get the information form and check all the boxes and I checked “youth ministry”. I don’t know what I was expecting, but my experience with Catholic life had been youth ministry in high school and I had a lovely experience. I kind of half-heartedly checked it so I could turn in the form and then leave. I ended up not leaving—shout out to Will Hofer. I then got a text from Mariah who ran the EDGE program a few years ago who said like, “Can we meet up and talk about EDGE?” and I said, “Sure.” Like, I’ll be glad to meet for an interest meeting. I show up and it was the planning meeting. I thought it was going to be a sales pitch kind of thing where you decide if you want to do it. No. It was the first planning day. Beyond that, we had to pick which grade we were working with. I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently no one likes to work with the sixth graders because they’re a bit wild. I ended up volunteering to work with them and I ADORE them. They’re now eighth graders and I adore each and every one of them. They’re really, really cool. I was talking to my youth minister from high school, with whom I’m very close with and he is a mentor in my life. I was talking to him about what I thought I wanted to do and I said, “I think I want to do youth ministry.” I was praying about it for a few weeks and I was looking back at what brought me to the faith. It was pretty clear. It was three men all of whom were involved in my youth ministry–my youth minister and two adult volunteers–all of whom I still talk to regularly.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Corinne Riley (3/18/2021)
What is one piece of advice that you would give to college students?
Corinne: I think the thing that I needed to hear the most is “it doesn’t matter what other people think about you.” Like…at all. Everyone is so afraid that they are being inspected under a microscope that they just become so hyperaware of behaving in a certain way to appease everyone around them and never actually saying what they mean or meaning what they say. I’ve seen that carried out in all of my relationships. I behave a certain way because I think that that person is going to approve of me more or like me more if I do X, Y, and Z. But, it doesn’t matter. That’s the thing. My biggest desire is to be known by people, but if I am just behaving in a way that I think they are going to approve of, I am never actually sharing myself and giving of myself. At the end of the day, I might have given what I think they wanted, but I still feel unknown. I think everyone struggles so much with insecurities. We are made for relationship, we want relationship, and yet we can sabotage that desire over and over again. So much of it is trying to gain approval in the wrong places or not feeling confident to actually share who you are. I shouldn’t have to be a salesman for myself. I shouldn’t feel like I have to sell myself to the world. “What do you want me to be? I’ll be whatever that is.” If I am selling something that is fake, then I am going to be disappointed and everyone around me will be disappointed.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Father Mario Calabrese (3/16/2021)
What are you the “best” at among your fellow brothers?
Father Mario: I can’t say I’m best at it, but I do enjoy cooking for the brethren and I enjoy cooking for anybody, frankly. I can’t say I’m best at it because we have some brothers in the house who make great dishes…one of them makes a wonderful bison chili, another brother makes an awesome spaghetti sauce, which is his grandmother’s recipe. Many people have said much about how food brings us together in any culture, in any community, in any family. Sitting around the table is the main seat of communication, of sharing life with each other. You can learn a lot about a people from how they eat. I think the best way to unlock a culture is to see how they eat because you learn about their land, what they’ve come to rely on. At the same time, you come to learn about them and what they do to celebrate. You learn about dishes they’ve created to celebrate someone or something. You just get a good insight as to how they live together. To me, food unlocks a people.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Meaghan Brennan and Maggie Sparling (3/11/2021)
How does this person draw you closer to God?
Meaghan: There are so many things that Maggie does to draw me closer to the Lord—like encouraging me to pray, being an accountability partner. One of the subtler things is her reverence when we go to Mass together. Her reverence during Mass has changed the way I experience Mass. During first year I was reverent, but I would find myself very easily letting my mind wander. When I am sitting with Maggie and I see her so focused, I tell myself that I need to be better and I need to show up to the Lord the way she does. I think that is one of the biggest ways. Another way is that Maggie will just randomly text me, “You are seen. You are known. You are loved.” It is 98% of the time exactly when I need it. I will really be having a bad moment and she just texts me and reminds me that I am loved both by her and by God. It is such a good thing.
Maggie: There are so many things I could say. I think one of the biggest ones is that Meaghan helps me call out the lies I tell myself. I have learned how to say, “No. That is not true. That is not of God.” She helps me to find healing in relationships and in learning to be vulnerable with her. She reorients me towards God and calls out the lies that have kept me from doing that. She has helped me find rest on Sunday mornings. I had such a hard time treating Sunday as different and setting aside time for rest. She has really helped me to make that space on Sundays by going to Mass together, having breakfast, planning Bible study, and just having time away from the work and chaos. I think those are some of the biggest ways that have just completely transformed the way I approach my relationships, especially my relationship with God.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Father David Mott, O.P. (1/25/2021)
What does your vocation story look like?
I wanted a normal life, the “American dream”. Well, for me, American dream was having a house in the country where I really didn’t see other houses. And that is what I had. I was surrounded by woods and the fact was that I could go on vacation regularly, do things with friends. I had the hopes of having a family eventually with all that followed the “normal” life. And then I got active in the parish, only because a friend at work told a Jewish friend of ours that he was interested in becoming Catholic. I overheard this and you know, the three of us were friends, so I asked, “Why are you telling our Jewish friend that you’re interested in becoming Catholic? You know I’m Catholic; why didn’t you say anything to me?” He said, “I knew you kept your faith private.” That was kind of like a deserved slap in the face.
As God’s providence would have it, that Sunday the parish had announced that RCIA was starting the following Sunday. The fact is that I actually paid attention to the announcements that week. The Lord opened my ears. So, I explained the situation to him and he said yes. I told him that if he was interested in going or if he needed a sponsor, I’d go along with him.
And I came out saying, “You know, even if you don’t want to come, I’m going to keep coming.” It was very interesting to learn about the faith as an adult. RCIA exposes people to why the church teaches what it does and what it actually does teach. It responds to adult questions. So, my friend came into the church and I was told that those who were sponsors needed to meet with the pastor at the time. And I said, “No, no, no, you have this confused. YOU, you’re the candidate. You’re supposed to meet with the pastor.” And he was like, “No, I’m pretty sure that I heard the sponsor needed to.” So, I met with the pastor at the time You know, you wanted to have a good priest, a good confessor, a good homilist, but you didn’t really want to get to know these guys because they’re scary. And they dress funny. When I went to meet with the pastor, I was scared to death and just rambled. He asked me some questions and I remember saying, in the most intellectual way, “Yeah, Mary is cool. Yeah.” That was my height of intellectual prowess there. “Mary is cool.” I thought about that later and AHH I was horrified. He asked if I had ever thought of becoming a priest. I said to him, “Yes. But that is a totally unfair question.” I was here because I was sponsoring someone else and this was a trap! He very simply invited me to visit the House of Studies at some time. He could see I felt a little weirded out by that. So, he said I should invite my friend in RCIA, see the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, just come up for a day. (I asked him later if he did that to everyone and he said that he really didn’t.)
That was my first time seeing the House of Studies and my friend was absolutely amazed, thought it was so cool—all the bowing and seeing all the guys in white habits. And I was terrified. They’re weird people. I think what was really terrifying is that I thought, “What would it be like if I really did this?” Well, six years and a few months later I entered the order. Six years I fought it…I fought it in every way possible. I went to a few vocations’ weekends and the second to the last one I went to I was told by one of the brothers, “If we see you again, we’re just going to put the habit on you.”
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Olivia Firsching (12/14/2020)
What is one prayer God has answered in your life recently?
Olivia: Since I was 14, I’ve always prayed for my friends and my future friends that I would make in my life. I prayed a novena at the start of my senior year in high school for the friends that I would make in college and for the community that I would have in college. That has kind of been a constant prayer in my life and I have seen that answered across my years at UVA. It just becomes more apparent in new ways. I remember driving in from Knoxville on Monday night and I remember driving on 64 and coming in the vicinity of Charlottesville and thinking, “ah, home.” And when I thought of home, the image in my mind was not my apartment, but it was St. Thomas and the church and by extension, all of the people that I love and the solid community that I have at St. Thomas. That moment crystallized for me the ways that He has answered that prayer for community and holy friendships. He has created a home for me furnished with all of these great souls.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Tommy Murray (11/14/2020)
Tell me about your experience at the Dedication Mass.
Tommy: The Dedication Mass was so cool. It was extremely fortifying and invigorating for my faith. I love going to those very solemn and very robust Catholic services that remind me of the awesome tradition of our church. I am always left in awe of the power of the church and how ancient it is, but also how it is present in the modern day. It is not just some relic. It is something that is still working in the world and is still changing the world. It is just so cool to see that, especially on a university campus where everything seems to be oriented to the secular. Things don’t seem to be concerned with the old, or tradition, or with religion in general. It was so cool being able to experience that as a college student. It was just such a beautiful service. Father Joseph-Anthony worked his butt off and gave us a beautiful Mass. It was a real treat to be able to work with him and to serve in the Mass. Actually, the exit hymn that they played was the same song that they played at my grandfather’s funeral. Everything just came together in this Mass—in general and for me personally. It was extremely touching. It was a great experience.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Ana Boush and Caitlin Mea (11/7/2020)
How does this person draw you closer to Christ?
Caitlin: I think that because we are so similar, Ana can see my weaknesses and help me grow in those areas because she is able to see the things that I’m struggling with. We sometimes will be going through the same thing at the same time as me, we can relate to each other in that. We can both wordlessly acknowledge where we can grow together. She’s not afraid to call me out on stuff. She is brutally honest and I love that—it is one of my favorite things about her. She calls it as it is and is not afraid to make me do better.
Ana: I would say ditto. But it is like that and also little things. Like going to Mass together and also dumb stuff, like Caitlin sitting really straight in Mass and I realize that I need to work on my posture for the Lord. At the end of the night, we always go to bed at the same time because if one is up, the other has to be up. If one is asleep, the other has to be asleep. We always do our readings together and there is just silent prayer time at the end of the night, and then we continue chatting.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Will Scheib (11/5/2020)
In what ways have the guys in your Bible study pushed you to grow?
Will: I feel like I might have gotten more out of this Bible study than these guys have, to be completely honest. I think being challenged to lead a group of guys, especially this group of guys, has been really good for me. It is said all the time, but God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called. So, I got asked to lead the study and I was like, “I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.” But I did the groundwork but these guys really took it and ran with it. My favorite part of the whole experience has been watching them become friends with each other. I mean, that’s the goal, right? Bible studies are supposed to be a group of friends; it’s not just a once a week meeting, it’s an everyday thing. “It’s everyday bro.” Community is a thing that exists all the time and it is something that I’ve seen develop over the past year and a half.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Sophia Van Horn and Cora Wack (10/30/2020)
What do you admire about this person?
Sophia: There are so many things…I am a big believer that the Lord’s love works through other people and the Lord knows I am a chaotic mess. Often, I need somebody to help me understand how to be more levelheaded or how to calm down my anxieties or talk some sense into me. I can become completely nonsensical and off the walls and not have a grip on anything, but then Cora comes in and everything just falls into place with her peace and her presence and she just has a very good sense of rationality. She calls me out on my crap. She’s like, “Why are you worrying about this? You shouldn’t be doing that! Maybe don’t drink so much.” She organizes my messes and helps me see things with clarity, which can only come from God. She has let her own beautiful relationship with God flow into her relationship with me. And she also just invites me to prayer a lot. She is a very warming person. She is a joy to share a room with, too.
Cora: What I admire about Sophia is her gift of service to everyone she meets, especially those really close to her. And how she manifests this in so many different ways—recently it has been through cooking, which we all really appreciate, but that just reflects her deeper desire to serve as Jesus does and to make sure everyone is cared for and loved as an individual. She’s really good at that. She truly loves until it hurts, because sometimes she gives of herself so much that it is painful, and I’ve noticed that. She has a heart for the poor in homeless ministry. It is just across the board you can see that service is a big part of Sophia’s life and I have definitely felt the effects of that—I know other people have too. I am extremely grateful for her fun personality that she combines with service and love. She really has a motherly instinct for everyone around her. It’s fantastic.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Grady Bartro, Jimmy Lawrence, Kyle McClelland, Nick Rouck, and Jared Tyranski (10/27/2020)
When did you know that this particular group of guys was unique?
Jimmy: We had been doing Bible Study for a while now and after one Bible study we just kept talking and kept walking in the same direction, talking and walking in the same direction. Continually. We didn’t really stop. We ended up walking two guys home and then those guys left and then we walked other people home and we just didn’t want to leave. When people got to their dorms there was kind of like a hesitation before going in so that was really cool to actually want to continue the conversation and continue hanging out Bible Study.
Grady: I knew it was something special when we had to go home for COVID during spring break and we didn’t really know how the Bible Study was going to go forward. And we were like, “Well…we can do it on Zoom.” And for the first few weeks, we did it on Zoom and played around with virtual backgrounds. By the end of the semester, we didn’t really know what was going to happen but Will sent us a message like, “Hey guys, no pressure, but fill out this poll to see what you want to do with the Bible Study during the summer.” And the results of the poll were that everyone wanted to continue doing it every week during the summer as opposed to just not doing it or doing it once a month. All seven of us chose every week.
How have these guys impacted your life?
Jared: Basically a lot of my time before coming to UVA, I did not really talk about my faith with anyone much at all, besides my mom and my grandma. Once I came here and joined the Bible study, these guys have helped me grow in so many ways. I’ve finally been able to bring myself to truly utilize the sacrament of confession and to really be able to look towards myself to change things about myself that impede me from growing closer to Christ. I’ve been able to talk to my friends about all these different things that I normally wouldn’t be able to talk to about. Even other things have just been helping me spiritually, ya know, maybe I read the Bible in a year with Max and Will and although I might have slacked a bit, reading scripture is still good! I’ve been leading rosaries which is helping to deepen my prayer and I’ve been having discipleship with my true brothers in Christ. It is amazing.
How has this Bible study shaped your time at UVA?
Nick: I remember this pretty distinctly when I was a first year, there was a lot of new stuff. I didn’t know people, I was still getting my group of friends together. There wasn’t a lot of consistency in my life at that point—consistency beyond going to class and eating dinner. I didn’t have a lot of my routine set. I remember going to Mass and the first couple of weeks, I didn’t really have anyone to go with so I went on my own. It was the first time I had really been to Mass without my family or my friends. I was really missing that sense of community, and although there was community there, I didn’t know anyone. I was looking for a way to get to know more people and I heard that we were starting up Bible Studies and I thought, “Well, that’s a perfect way to get to know people!” And it was an instant change. Not only in the sense of community, but also in my personal spiritual life. Everything just improved. There’s really something about having a group of people to talk to because sometimes you really do need a Catholic perspective and you need to ground yourself. This is something that should be in everyone’s life. It’s really valuable.
Kyle: Today is actually the one-year anniversary of when I went to Mass with you (talking to Nick) for the first time in a pretty long time, actually being open to believing in Catholicism. When Nick says he didn’t have anyone to go to Mass with him in the beginning of the year, there is a certain somebody he might or might not have asked who told him “no”. I will not name names, but his name does rhyme with “tile”.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Izzy Motta (10/23/2020)
What is your favorite part of the faith?
Izzy: I’d have to say just the depth within Catholicism. There are so many things you can explore and consider and just ponder. I remember when you first sent me these questions I was at church and I was just thinking about the miracle of incorruptibility of the saints’ bodies; the next day I was thinking about the joyful mysteries; the next day I was just trying to ponder the endless nature of God’s love and how it is just completely boundless. I think it is so beautiful how you can transition from one or more of those topics into something completely different. I feel like with other Christian denominations it can seem very simple. And while there is that element of simplicity in Catholicism where things are as they are, like “This is the Body of Christ” and “Jesus died on the cross for your sins”—these are simple truths. But because there is so much depth behind those truths, it becomes a lifelong pursuit, which is perfect for us. And that is exactly how Catholicism should be, that is exactly how our lives should be. We should be set up to study the faith for our entire lives.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Colby Koenig (10/18/2020)
Tell me about your conversion.
Colby: So, I was baptized as a kid, but my family was never religious. And then when I was in middle/high school I just had some tough stuff that I was going through and that kind of just made me take life more seriously so I actually looked into what I supposedly believed. I was like “Okay, this seems true.” And it was just basic Christian beliefs and it was at that point that I started going to a non-denominational church for about a year or so. And that was good. I read the Bible and did all of that stuff but I always kind of felt like something was missing and I still had some problems in my life that weren’t necessarily sorted out. Then, last summer, I met my girlfriend and she was Catholic. *toddler interrupts conversation* We started dating and we were like, “If we’re going to date for marriage, we don’t want to have completely different religions.” So, I was like, “Let’s look into this. I’ll prove to you that Catholicism is false and you’ll become Protestant. And if Catholicism happens to be true, then I’ll become Catholic.” And as I started looking into it I was like, “Huh…oh huh!” and Catholicism was true. I didn’t have a choice, fortunately. That was last winter when I intellectually believed that Catholicism was true. So, I talked to RCIA at my local church and they said that I would have to wait until next year but Katie’s mom was like “no” and then they said that I could get confirmed on Easter. But then they didn’t let me because of COVID so I had to wait until July. The conversion from Christian to Catholic was even worlds apart from nothing to Christian. It is so much more rich. You have the saints and the sacraments and Our Blessed Mother…oh my gosh. I look back and I am so grateful and it is such a weird series of events that got me here, but I am so grateful.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Father Joseph-Anthony Kress, O.P. (10/14/2020)
What is one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
Father: Dance more. Yep.
Father: Because I think dancing involves risk. It is a great way to learn how to take a risk. There is beauty of being vulnerable. I think you can learn a lot by dancing. And it just brings joy! There is a beauty to music, there is a community that takes place. I really think that it can be something that helps you learn how to take a risk and to not be afraid of that. It also means that you’re not afraid of failing. I think that is a really big thing for people. Something that I’ve always struggled with is that aspect of failure. Our life, the Christian life, is not about success and not about perfection, it is actually more about failure than anything—but it is our comfortability with failure and the ability to get back up. And yeah, you’re going to step on somebody’s toes every now and then and you’re going to fall down and slip and that is okay. But it is just that risk to walk up to somebody and say, “May I have this dance?” That is terrifying! It helps you to overcome fear, it helps you to be comfortable with risk. It also helps you to lead others and your purpose of leading others is to make them feel secure and comfortable and happy and you can always have an opportunity to laugh and to be joyful. That is kind of an off the wall answer, but a lot is wrapped up into that.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Emma Stovall (10/10/2020)
In what ways has your heart of service influenced your relationship with Christ?
Emma: I have two answers to that question. First, for me, I’ve always been really attracted to this idea that God gives us so much love and it can overflow to others. For a while, especially in the low points of my faith, what has kept me going is to receive enough love to outpour to others, especially in your traditional service activities—volunteering or homeless ministry—and having that area to ground me and keep me consistent and tethered to the church. It helps me to love others better. People also talk about where they hear God and for some people it is numbers or scripture, but one way that I have most clearly felt that I was listening to God was by listening to the words of others. And especially the spontaneous words of others that you would not always expect. Those encounters overflow when I am in the service of others. I think he draws me into relationship that way. I guess service is when I am able to best hear the Lord and I think he draws me into relationship that way, in the way he calls me to love others and, in turn, receiving his love to love others. What really got me involved in the Catholic Hoos community in general was homeless ministry. So just on the most basic level of doing this thing, I was able to get a community to support me in my faith and to push me to grow and to want to be better. I would not have that if it was not for homeless ministry. I think of just how God used my desire to serve others to then lead me to this incredible community—some of the closest friends I’ve made at UVA—I definitely don’t take that for granted.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Pat Casey and Jack Stone (10/1/2020)
How does this person inspire you?
Jack: Pat inspires me in his relentless pursuit of the truth and his relentless love for me and the other guys that he disciples. Pat is always willing to do the hard right, over the easy wrong. Pat has pushed me, in the past when I was definitely misguided. He won’t stand down to make me comfortable and that is how much he loves me as a mentor. That means a lot. Pat is like a father figure in many good ways, like he is older and he is wiser than me. He has been a really outstanding guy who is able to live an orthodox Catholic faith while also being engaged with the world, but not of the world.
Pat: Jack Stone inspires me in just his ability to have little conversations. In little conversations he works Christ in. That comes through constant prayer and constantly letting the Holy Spirit shape your heart. He is the O-positive in terms of a universal donor. He walks into a room with gravity and everyone wants to talk with him and he doesn’t talk about talking to the coolest person in the room. He just wants to connect with somebody and ask them about their life and not put up with this fake answer of just “good.” He wants to know how you are and how he can pray for you. Every day, that man is praying for me.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Katherine Zain and Amy White (9/29/2020)
How does this person bring you closer to God?
Amy: I especially think of first year when I wasn’t completely positive that I wanted to pursue my Catholic faith in college. I think a lot of the reason as to why I am so involved in Catholic Hoos originates from Katherine. I know she invited me to T-Sup a couple times first year and I was a little too intimidated to go by myself because I was like, “I don’t even know where in the church it is! I don’t know if I will know anyone.” But that invitation was a big way that she has pulled me closer to Christ.
Katherine: I think Amy has such Christ centered joy in the way she lives out her day. She just doesn’t get bogged down by the stresses of life and there is a lot going on for her—she’s got a stacked plate. For so many people, they would get caught up in that, but she just has such a spirit of joy and she will just appreciate the small things in life. An example of this is when we went on a sunrise hike a couple of weeks ago and on our way down, Amy kept picking up bunches of wildflowers, which was hilarious. She climbed a tree and it was just the most wholesome thing. She lives in the moment and enjoys the little things. Whereas I was like, “We’ve done our sunrise hike. Let’s get back, next thing.” And she just enjoys those small moments, the little gifts from God.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Fatima Solis (9/26/2020)
Tell me a glory story.
Fatima: My favorite glory story is the glory story of my reversion because I have always been Catholic, but this is when I started realizing that God is real and He is powerful. It was kind of scary—I have OCD and my reversion happened when my OCD was at its worst. When it was at its worst, I lost the ability to function as a normal human being. I remember one day I was stuck in this panic attack and my mom had to carry me out of the bathroom and she brought me to her bedroom and we both just sat on her bed. I was laying there, and she was kneeling and praying. I was in this very tense panic attack state and my mom was like, “the only thing we can do right now to help you is pray.” And before this, I had never had any success with prayer—I just didn’t know how to do it. I was just like, “Okay, fine. I can’t do anything else to help myself right now.” So, she was like, “We are going to pray Psalm 23” and she started reciting it and I think that was the first time I started to actually feel peace in my soul. It felt so good because I was in such a fearful and tense state. I started praying it and this peace that I had never felt before just entered my heart. That is when I was like, “Woah…this is real. It is not just a story, God is real.” So, whenever I doubt or whenever I am feeling kind of lukewarm in my spiritual life, I go back to that and think of it as a turning point. I’ve experienced the truth in it and that shows me that even when I don’t feel anything, God is there.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Sean Piwowar (9/23/2020)
Tell me a glory story.
Sean: An amazing, amazing glory was one time I was with a group of guys–some of the best friendships I’ve made in Catholic Hoos–and we said a rosary together. And I’ve said rosaries in groups before, but for whatever reason it was a group of just guys. I think a great thing about this ministry is that we are fostering these great and strong male-female relationships between each other, but then also we go within the sexes and are fostering really great male friendships. That has been so awesome for me and I have been thinking about “What does it mean to be brothers in Christ?” So, we said a rosary together and it was like me, Will, Jack Power, Dan was there, I think Jack Stone was there. It was like the manliest thing I’ve ever done. And for whatever reason, I felt like we were just belting it out. We were taking turns leading and it was just so beautiful. And these brothers are guys who are on the same journey as me, they are here for me when I need them, and I am there for them. We were uniting that brotherhood in a devotion to the Blessed Mother. It was really cool—it just shook me up to my core. The fact that they felt that too is, in and of itself, beautiful. They came out totally in agreement that it was awesome.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Caroline Mangels (9/17/2020)
What is your favorite part about being Catholic?
My instinct for this question is the Eucharist, but I would broaden that to the fact that there is something so comforting in the nature of the universal church. And I think that ties to the Eucharist a lot, but knowing that at any given moment, I can walk into any Catholic church in the whole world and encounter Christ in the Eucharist–like the person of Christ is just really, really powerful. Knowing that as a universal church there are people who are perpetually praying for us and taking care of us, not just as individuals or individual parishes, but for the church as a whole.
When I was studying abroad in Spain, it was really hard, of course, to change settings so dramatically, but then there is something about finding other young people who are just as dedicated to their faith, even though we lived different childhoods, different lifestyles, and having that still be central to both of us. The people I met at my church in Spain are hugely important, but also the comfort of knowing any Catholic Mass is going to involve the Eucharist, any Catholic church is going to have these components, not only to their physical aspects, but also their doctrine and belief system. We all kind of have the same goal—which is heaven, instead of just having the same book that we follow.
Humans of Catholic Hoos: Joey Schneeberger and Jack Power (9/15/2020)
What is one thing you admire about this person?
Joey: Well, this past summer we’d call every week just to catch up. It was really great to see his high value for family. He said that this summer he didn’t have an internship and although that didn’t work out, he was able to grow immensely in his relationship with his siblings. They’d watch TV, play games, pray—they’d do all these great things. And him being the oldest sibling—that is so special for him to have in his family and he is putting in a lot of good work in spreading the faith and trying to make sure all the younger kids are growing in holiness. He is sanctifying his household. Growing closer to his family was the outcome of summer; that was way more valuable than any sort of job or internship. That will always have an impact on his siblings and they will always remember that. That is something I want to definitely imitate when I have a family, and with my family currently.
Jack: There is a ton I admire about Joey, but if I could narrow it down to one thing, it would be humility. I think that it is just prevalent everywhere. I remember…last night I was with the other guys from the Greek Life Bible study and one of my friends made a joke like, “Joey’s just the closest on the path to Christ out of all of us.” And Joey was like, “I don’t know about that, bro.” It was just really funny that this is the embodiment of the humility he exhibits on a daily basis. He is constantly asking “How can I help others? How can I lead more souls to Christ?” He is trying to consistently promote that feeling of community and never making himself out to be better than others. I think that is very contrary to the UVA culture of “look how good I am.” And I think that is a testimony to how humble Joey is, where despite all this culture trying to suck him in he was like, “No no, thanks, I’m good. I don’t want to be like that”. It is really admirable.
Photography by Dulcis Gratia Photography and Justin Vinh.