By Celina Basaldu, Bachelor of Social Work, 2012 

When I stepped foot onto Baylor’s campus my freshman year, I had no idea what I was in for. I’ll admit that I got a taste of college level classes while in high school, but I had no idea of all of the freedom that was waiting for me. No one was going to tell me what time I had to be home, when to wake up, or, the biggie, that I had to go to church. I knew I was coming to a private Christian university with a low sense of faith. I was Catholic by upbringing, but had zero interest in continuing that “way of life” once coming to college. My parents desperately wanted me to care about my faith and to care about all of the good things that I have because of a loving God, but I didn’t. I was ready to be away from their desperation. Yet, before my parents left Waco, before their final goodbyes, my mom looked at me and said “Promise me that you’ll keep going to church.” My immediate thought was “Oh, great. Now I have to go.” Despite my lack of longing to go to church, I never disobeyed my parents. I always wanted to do right by them. I told her, begrudgingly, that I would keep that promise. That promise brought me to St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center.

It took me a long time to get involved with St. Peter’s. I attended mass every Sunday, but resisted giving my faith a chance to grow. I did not give a thought to checking out a ministry, or even to going on the New Student retreat held every fall semester. My mom said nothing about getting involved, so I didn’t.

However, the spring semester of my freshman year, a very persistent friend convinced me to sign up for the spring retreat appropriately called Bear Awakening. That retreat flipped my life upside-down. I learned that God is real, He is loving, and He is merciful! He was watching over me, even during the times I could care less about following Him. I immediately became obsessed with the Church. I wanted to learn everything about what she’s offered me all along: the Sacraments, the Body of Christ, grace, mercy, everything! I wanted to learn more! I wanted to DO more! As a result, I dove into the many ministries that St. Peter’s had to offer. I even led a few. Because of this, for me, St. Peter’s slowly evolved from just a place of worship to a place where my heart began to transform.

I learned so much about myself through my involvement in St. Peter’s ministries and by attending Sunday Mass, Daily Mass, and Adoration. I learned to embrace my Catholic faith no matter the circumstances. I learned to take that same faith and implement it into everyday decisions and actions. I learned that my Catholic faith is what drives me to be the best leader I can be, because my prayer is not to lead for my superficial gain, but for God’s glory. I have developed my identity as a Catholic woman and without it, I may have continued to live out my college years never understanding our loving God.

Being involved with St. Peter’s has been nothing short of life changing. It is my “home away from home.” Whenever I return to Waco from out of town, my first stop is never to my apartment, but St. Peter’s.

If I look back on every significant moment throughout my years at Baylor, the majority of them have happened within the four walls of this blessed church: receiving the sacrament of Confirmation, the discovery of a dear friend’s passing, my first painful heartbreak, being chosen as Bear Awakening 10 Coordinator, and meeting strangers who became friends, friends who became best friends, best friends who have become my family of faith.

I fell in love with God at St. Peter’s, and, at times, felt so far away from Him, too. Those joys and those struggles have shaped my Catholic faith in ways I never thought possible. It’s amazing to know that a building, a sanctuary, a church, can play a part in forming my heart into living out my Catholic faith more deeply. And what a joy that I could do all of that while in college!

Today, it is often joked that I am the “walking billboard” for St. Peter’s, or that I am the “resident personality.” Those jokes may or may not be true, but I embrace the labels. I adore talking to prospective students and their families about St. Peter’s. I’m always ready to greet fresh faces with a smile and a handshake. If I can give them a small sense of how much St. Peter’s means to me, and how much my college experience has been enhanced, then I know that it’s enough, even if Baylor or St. Peter’s is not their choice. St. Peter’s alone has given me so much and I want to radiate that to others, Catholic or not.

As previously mentioned, St. Peter’s became my home away from home. It is where I go to feel safe, to feel supported, and to feel loved. But, after taking a step back, I learned that I always had a home; a place to feel safe, supported, and loved. I found it all in the One True Church, and that has made all the difference in my college experience.

Celina encourages retreaters at BA10 in April, 2012.

Celina encourages retreaters at BA10 in April, 2012.

After being a constant presence and ‘cheerleader’ for St. Peter’s for the past five years, Celina will cross the stage at Baylor University and receive her Master of Social Work (MSW) and move into the work force. She is hopeful to combine her degree with her experiences at St. Peter’s by working in the field of campus ministry.  Whatever she does, we know she will bring to it all the passion she has brought to the community of St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center while she was here.

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