Humans of Catholic Hoos



⁠How has this Catholic friendship pushed you to grow in your faith?

Luke Stone: Luke and I met during our first year, but it wasn’t until we were in Bible Study together during our third year that we became truly close friends. Before that, we knew we shared a lot of common interests and hobbies—we both love watching UVA sports and are in the same major—but our friendship became much deeper when it became Christ-centered. As we’ve grown in our faith side-by-side, we’ve obviously become more dependent on the Lord. But I think we’ve also become more dependent on each other.

Our friendship has helped me grow because it’s given me company on my faith journey here at UVA. Striving to lead a life rooted in prayer, sacraments, and Catholic fellowship is easier when you have someone who will go to mass with you, pray with you, and spend time with you somewhere other than official parish or ministry events. Luke has also helped me grow by setting a positive peer example. He exemplifies the virtue of excellence. Watching him juggle a frequent sacramental and consistent prayer life with a busy, but not all-consuming extracurricular and class schedule has shown me what a rightly ordered life should look like.

As we prepare to graduate and move to different cities, we’ve talked about how the rhythms and routines of our daily lives will look different in the so-called “real world.” I think we have a special opportunity in the coming years to push each other to navigate that transition well and cooperate with the Lord’s grace to keep our spiritual lives in order. I’m sad that we’ll be apart next year. However, I’m grateful for the time we’ve spent together and trust that he’ll still play an important role in my faith life.

Luke Lamberson: For two and a half years at UVA, I was the student that attended mass, often by myself, entering and exiting without talking to anyone. I had known Luke through class, but in our third year I was invited to join a bible study that he was in. I was nervous because I had never been to a bible study before and didn’t know anyone else in the study. I reached out to Luke to see if he was going and he offered a ride. I honestly am not sure I would have gone to that bible study on that day if it weren’t for Luke’s offer.

Luke and I alternated giving each other rides to bible study and mass the rest of the semester. Throughout this time our friendship deepened as we connected over our shared Catholic identity. Whether it was debating the outlook of UVA basketball, reminiscing over niche athletes from the 2000s, or discussing Sunday’s homily, we realized we had a great deal in common.

A year later, Luke and I have now ridden together countless times to bible study, Sunday mass, daily mass, Upper Room, and so many other Catholic Hoos events. It is much easier to grow in your faith when you do it together and Luke has constantly inspired me to take my faith more seriously and to take steps to live it out more fully throughout my life.

Perhaps the place where my faith has grown the most, though, is through discipleship. Luke invited me to walk with him in discipleship and through these conversations, prayer, and mentorship, I have directed my life closer to God. If it were not for Luke, I would not have grown as deeply in my faith and would not be the person I am today.

Clara Hennessey & Helen Sparling

How has Catholic Hoos fostered a friendship that allows you to grow deeper to Christ?

Helen: I met Clara a few days into first semester. We were at a first year informational session in a lecture hall, and I recognized her from mass the Sunday before. I waved her over, and we chatted before the session started. I love to imagine what the Father’s face looked like in that moment. He was probably grinning at these two clueless first years he had just pinched together.

One pig roast, a first year scavenger hunt, and a luau party later, Clara and I basically became attached at the hip — literally and figuratively. We went everywhere together, spending the first few weeks of our first year exploring UVA, and getting to know each other. Classes for both of us were pretty calm at first, and so all free time was spent talking about everything under the sun. The key theme through it all that felt so different than any other friendships I had had before was pursuit of the Lord and a desire to walk with Christ. Through long walks, meals at O Hill, going to Mass together, and getting more involved in the ministry (she basically forced me to go to Fireside Choir the first time, but to this day I can count on one hand the times I missed), Clara taught me about the love of the Father and about virtuous friendship. She calls out the goodness in me, while also calling me higher when she can see me settling for less. She modeled to me how to live my faith boldly and how to rest in my identity as daughter of the Father.

The Lord works in many ways, using so many different avenues to bring about His will. I know that He used Catholic Hoos to bring Clara and I together, like so many other friendships that have formed within these walls. I thank God every day for the gift of my friendship with Clara.

Clara:When I met Helen, I still felt like an awkward new girl at a new school, going about her first day of classes, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. But she called me out, in a lecture hall, and made me move from the row I was in to go sit with her and a hallmate. No longer inconspicuous. But also, no longer friendless.

Helen and I became pretty much inseparable from that day. We both simply fit together, providentially I suppose. We wanted to be involved with the exact same things. We drew each other out of our comfort zones (I dragged Helen into Fireside choir, she got me up early for 8am Mass. I didn’t speak to her all morning.) We got asked into the same bible study. We ate breakfast together. We cried on each other after the school shooting. We took over the STA common room each Friday night with all our newfound friends. We started getting ready for the Easter Vigil Mass together at 2pm on Holy Saturday because we didn’t want the Triduum to last longer than it already had. We celebrated the Resurrection together. We transitioned as friends from being at school 24/7 to being in two different states over the summer, and back again to living as housemates in the fall. We’ve laughed deliriously, suffered intensely, eaten horrible dining hall meals, cooked spaghetti in a microwave, and picnicked off an ironing board on the floor of Kellogg dorms.

But in the end, our entire relationship can be traced through the ministry of Catholic Hoos, which in turn can be traced through the great and glorious plan of God to bring all peoples together into Himself. This ministry provided us a place to grow, with each other and with all the other wonderful people God surrounded us with in this community. The groundwork that Catholic Hoos laid for us to grow closer to each other made it possible for us to learn what it means to truly accompany another through all aspects of life with faith, virtue, and joy. I could not be more grateful for this divine gift of friendship.

Natalie Lauer

What is one prayer God has answered in your life recently?

Natalie: Coming to UVA, I was excited to get involved in Catholic Hoos, but I was really intimidated by the number of super devout Catholics in the ministry. Everyone seemed to know everything about the faith — every story from the Bible, all the lives of the saints, and all of these theological concepts that I never once thought about, yet even heard of. I felt that I was very “behind” in my faith, and I was scared that I would be judged not only by others in the ministry, but by God. So, I kept bringing these feelings of fear, shame, and unworthiness to the Lord. Thankfully, He was able to quiet these thoughts and feelings and reveal to me that I will always be good enough for Him.

About a month ago, someone in my anatomy class asked my professor “If you had to go through med school again, would you do it?” Her response was “the only reason I would go through it again is to be right here with you guys. You were the light at the end of the tunnel.” After her response, God immediately showed me how her love for her students parallels with Jesus’ love for me and all of His children. I finally understood all of the steps He took to get to me, and that given the choice to do it all over again, He would, just so I could be with Him today. God revealed to me that I am exactly where I need to be, that He loves me no matter how many Catholic facts I know, and He rejoices every time I step into St. Thomas Aquinas.

Jack Trotter

How did the existing community at Catholic Hoos allow you to make meaningful friendships?

Jack: As a transfer student living off grounds, community was a concern for me starting the new school year. I wanted authentic friendships which drew me closer to God, and in Catholic Hoos, I found that. Within a day of being on campus, Nate, our president, had already reached out to me and invited me to dinner and Mug party. It seemed like almost immediately, I belonged to this community. People who I had never even met before would say hi to me in the dining hall, somehow already knowing my name. It was nice to feel so intentionally cared for in a community I had no ties in. Fireside mass, Tuesday supper, and Pig Roast are obvious events which people might point to as places where they would expect the community of Catholic Hoos to be built. For me, God has built a more hidden community. While the socializing is great, and good for so many reasons, I also love the little things, like the people who I may not know too well, but see at the 8 am Mass every morning, and give a quick smile as I walk to my pew. Or the students whose schedule aligns with mine, so we seem to always be in the chapel at the same time of day. God gives big gifts of community, but he also gives smaller presents, and sometimes, it is in that littleness which I truly feel at home.

A big thanks to Justin Vinh for all his work in photographing the humans of Catholic Hoos!