Hey y’all. My name is Derek Christensen; I am a sophomore with a major in Biology with a Pre-Med track. I am a cradle Catholic. Growing up my family would go to church on and off. It was about 7th grade when we just stopped all together. No more mass, confessions, prayers or anything to do with the church. We didn’t have a grudge against the church, we just didn’t go. Now I went to a small southern public school. In that town of 700 we had 7 protestant churches in the surrounding area, so you can only imagine how few catholic classmates I had. I said I was Catholic but I knew nothing of the faith. I knew nothing how to defend it or answer the questions I was asked on almost a weekly basis.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year until God called me home. We got a call one day that my Step-grandfather had left my grandmother, an Alzheimer’s patient, in the middle of a parking lot in downtown temple. Now grandmother has had Alzheimer’s for several years by this point in time and it had progressed to a moderate/severe stage. After that we quickly learned that he has been verbally, mentally, and emotionally abusive to her for the past decade. As you can imagine I was infuriated by this. How could someone do anything like that to my grandma, who is one of the most saintly women I have ever met? I didn’t know how to deal with grief or pain so bore hatred for him.
To further the fact, we brought my grandma home and learned she had not been receiving her medicine. We placed her in Wesley Woods Alzheimer’s Center. We were told that family interaction and consistence are the best things for Alzheimer’s patients. So, we took her to mass. We all agreed it would be a weekly thing for now on. This lasted a month until my family stopped going, so I took her. Now my first time back at Mass, I didn’t have this realization of everything I had been doing wrong or an overwhelming passion to keep coming, but I did feel at home and my grandma loved it, so because of that I continued to take her.
It is now January and I have been going to mass every week. My life outside of church was unhealthy. I was going to parties drinking and interacting with people I had no business even knowing. At the announcements after Mass Fr. John announced Diocese of Austin Catholic Youth Conference (D.C.Y.C.) and I was intrigued. I figured “why not? It could be fun.”
DCYC started out well, with worship music and talks. On Saturday, there was Adoration. This was my first time ever in Adoration. What I felt there in the convention center with 3, 000 other Catholic teenagers has stuck with me to this day. People were bawling all around me and some were being taken over by the Spirit. The incense was strong and there was not a light on besides those on the altar with God. Everything and I mean EVERYTHING in my life can into focus. I realized what I have been doing with my life and I wanted to change. I knew that God wanted more and that he could give me strength as I cared for my Grandmother. I went to confession for the first time since my very first confession. I unloaded all the things I have been doing and I felt good, lighter even. I made a promise to make this faith my own, to claim ownership over it.
My junior year I tackled another demon in my life, the hatred from my step-grandfather. I had been a practicing Catholic ever since DCYC, but I never let go of my hatred. One Saturday my father and I went up the Wesley Woods because he was yelling and scaring the employees and patients. My dad went and talked with my grandma. My Step-Grandfather then turned to me and started yelling. I can’t remember what he said but it’s irrelevant. In that moment, I had almost this outer body experience and I realized that I should not harbor any kind of hatred for this man. I should pray for him and feel sorry for him. So I went to confession and let it go. I cannot describe the weight that was lifted off my shoulders that day.
I finished my time at Crawford and I came to Baylor. I found the St. Peters Community. I also found struggles here at Baylor. My friends in the dorm were not at all interested in faith, just partying and drinking. I unfortunately allowed them to influence me some nights. I was still active in the church, always going to mass and always participating the Knights. It was after Baylor Awakening 11, through a bible study that realized I don’t need the party life. I renewed my vow that I took after DCYC to make this faith my own.
Looking back I can only smile at God’s Grace and how it was working in my life. I might not be here right now writing this testimony to you if some of those bad things had never happened. I definitely would not have been able to make it my freshman year without St. Peters. It is my home; it is my family. The individuals there have helped me in ways they will never understand. I am grateful for St. Peters. I am grateful for this amazing Catholic faith we have. My advice to you reading this is to make this place your home as well. We are a community of sinners striving together to be disciples of God. Join us, and we shall set ourselves and this campus ablaze with the love of God.