Why hello there! My name is Andrew Ferrara and I’m a junior from Saint Louis, Missouri. I’ve never been too great at telling my story, so bear with me. Here we go.
I grew up in a Catholic home with devout Catholic parents. We went to mass on Sundays, and prayed before every meal. When I look back on my religious life, there is a significant difference between high school and grade school. I received the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion when I was in Second grade, and I received the Sacrament of Confirmation in Seventh grade. I remember being really excited about each of these, because I knew that they were this big step towards God. I was especially excited about Confirmation. To me it was like saying, “Yes, this Catholicism thing? I want to be a part of it!”
I carried this excitement into high school where I would make comments and ask questions in my religion classes. What I quickly found out was that although I went to a Catholic school where the staff tried there hardest to create a good Christian environment, not many of the students wanted to do the same. I conformed to the point that I almost never talked about my faith during high school. On top of all that, I stopped going to mass on a regular basis somewhere around my sophomore year. I didn’t go to Confession either because I was confused by the way my high school had it set up.
I guess it’s worth noting that my brother also had an impact on my church life. He stopped going to mass on Sundays before I was even in high school. I eventually came to a point where I thought that if he can do it, it must be okay. I even adopted one of his favorite phrases, “I hate organized religion.” Now, I didn’t hate the Catholic Church. I didn’t even really hate Mass, but there was this image of Mass that I hated. I hated that people would put so much emphasis on going to Mass on Sunday, like nothing else mattered. I believed that if God was truly everywhere and always with me, then can’t I just pray on Sundays on my own and that’s enough? I strived for a good faith life outside of Mass by praying, believing in God, doing charity, being kind to others, and being there for my family. There were times that my faith should’ve been tested by things that I’ve seen cause others to stop believing in God altogether. However, instead I took on this belief that there must be balance and that if God allows something bad to happen, then He must have something good waiting for you.
I learned a lot about other religions in my high school Honors World Religions class. My favorite thing was that so many religions have this common view of how important friendships are. I also learned a lot about Mormonism and Judaism. But I never learned about the differences among Christian denominations. That’s why when I decided to go to Baylor I had no idea what I was getting into. I saw that it was Baptist, didn’t know what exactly what that meant, just that it was Christian and that was good enough for me. I remember being at the Welcome Week religious service when I had this overwhelming feeling that God had led me to the right place, but I had no idea at the time what he had planned for me.
I quickly fell into the trap that most college students fall in to. I hardly went to any parties in high school and I had felt like I missed out on something, so I fell into partying and drinking my freshman year. I still wasn’t going to Mass or Confession. I didn’t even know where St. Peter’s was on a map.
But towards the end of freshman year started this journey back to the Church. I was having dinner one night with JP Brady and Robbie McCandlish. They were being somewhat secretive about something they were talking about and I asked what it was. They weren’t sure if they could tell me much less bring me to what they were talking about, but they decided to bring me anyway. Along the way, they said, “By the way if anyone asks, you’re Catholic. You’re not Catholic, right?” I simply replied with, “Uh…yeah I’m Catholic.” They were shocked and decided right then and there that they were going to bring me into the Knights of Columbus. When joining, I was asked why. I said I had fallen away from the Church and wanted to come back. So JP and Robbie made sure that I started going to Mass again.
Sophomore year came around and my partying had seriously declined and I didn’t drink as much. I think part of that can be attributed to the Antioch lifegroup I was involved with. This was an interesting time for me. I was involved with the Knights and going to Mass on Sundays while being involved in a lifegroup and going to Dwelling Place on Wednesdays. The only way I knew how to describe myself at the time was non-denominational. I didn’t like all this difference among denominations. Wasn’t it just more important that we were all Christians? But this quickly disappeared when the Catholic faith was tested in front of me. One day a girl came into Antioch and spoke in front of the crowd saying hurtful things about Catholicism. Also, one of my roommates had started to speak against the Catholic faith and make a few jokes here or there. This was literally the first time I had actually seen that there are those who aren’t too fond of the Catholic faith. (Remember I grew up in a mostly Catholic environment) I realized that I didn’t have the tools to defend my faith so I started asking Father Daniel questions after Mass. I stopped calling myself a non-denominational Christian, stopped fighting for religious equality, and realized my religion was under attack. MY religion. MY beliefs. This was probably the moment when I realized I was a devout Catholic at heart and I wanted to make this faith my own.
But that was to be put on hold because in the spring of last year I went home while my grandfather was in the hospital. It was a difficult time but I made sure to pray every day and go to Mass. When I got back to school this past fall, I was allowed to bring my car and I started parking at St. Peters because I didn’t want to pay 300 dollars for a parking sticker. I started going inside just to get a drink of water before going home, but then I realized people actually hung out at the Catholic Center on a daily basis. One day I was asked to attend Daily Mass. I agreed, and I have been going to Daily Mass almost every day ever since. I have gotten involved with FOCUS by being in Bible Studies, and I am even leading on this semester. Everything culminated to a spiritual high point at SLS14 where I attended the most beautiful Adoration, listened to the most amazing Christian music and the most inspirational speakers, and finally after roughly SEVEN years, I went to confession.
I am still seeking answers and learning how to be as Christ-like as possible. I am trying to make this faith my own. I use the principles I learned when I was little and the knowledge I am given now. The friendships we make, every one of them are important, for Jesus is in each and every one of us. One of the greatest gifts we have is to see Christ in others and to show others what it is to be truly Christ-like.
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Saint Francis of Assisi