Meet Kevin Renois. Kevin’s a Baylor Hankamer School of Business alumnus who was integral to the formation of Startup Waco, an incubator for Waco entrepreneurs. Kevin shares how the Catholic Center was influential in his faith journey in our Advent Appeal letter.
Dear friend in Christ,
On February 11th of this year, the Sunday before Lent, I was baptized, confirmed and received first Holy Communion in the Roman Catholic Church at St. Peter Catholic Student Center. I consider the events of that day to truly be the most important and most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced.
By the grace of God, my journey to the Church and my formation as a new Catholic have been supported by numerous fiercely devout Catholics, all of whom I had the honor of meeting through the student center. In this letter I’d like to tell you a bit about my journey to the Church and how the St. Peter community has changed my life, and I’d like to encourage your support of the student center in this season of anticipation thanksgiving in celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I was raised in the beautiful chaos that is Port-Au-Prince, Haiti – a big city on a small island in the middle of the Caribbean. Haiti is primarily Roman Catholic, but I was raised as a Baptist. Growing up, all I knew about Catholics was that they believed in stuff that my family didn’t agree with (Praying to Mary and the saints, the Pope, confessing to priests, etc.) and that our family was very intentionally not Catholic. For my mother especially, being Protestant was part and parcel of our identity as believers.
I came to Waco in the fall of 2012 to attend Baylor and chose to focus my studies on entrepreneurship and public administration. After graduating in 2016, I stayed in Waco, working diligently alongside several others to bring to life Start Up Waco, a collaboratively created nonprofit focused on making Waco a place where entrepreneurship thrives, and Hustle Co-Working, a large resource center and open-plan office space for entrepreneurs in downtown Waco.
In undergrad I was very intentional about where I attended church and with whom. I took faith very seriously, but found myself chronically dissatisfied with churches, pastors, styles of worship, and the direction of my faith in general. I was frustrated. Something always seemed to be missing. For a long time I attended the Church Under the Bridge, a congregation that met outdoors under the I-35 bridge across from Baylor. It is a church attended mostly by homeless and poor people in Waco, and I was compelled by the gospel verses Matthew 25: 31-46 to surround myself in fellowship with “the least of these.” I was deeply invested in that community and learned a lot about service and sacrifice during my time there. It was a beautiful place.
Yet my frustration lingered. What was I missing? There I was, spending time with the meek and the poor, those who will inherit the Kingdom of God (Luke 6:20), but I still felt like something was off. I realized that while I was learning to serve within His Kingdom, I had not yet truly learned to love the King. I was longing to know more about God, wanting to love Him with all my heart, soul and mind, but I wasn’t getting enough of that under the bridge.
I had the good fortune to have made friends with several very thoughtful Christians at Baylor, a number of whom were devout Catholics. My senior year I lived in an off-campus apartment with several other young men, three of whom are brilliant and pious Catholics who were very involved at St. Peter: Oliver Ha, Jacob Imam, and Luke Ungarino. I had the chance to observe their faith up close and was intrigued by what I saw. There was something they understood about God that I didn’t. There were ways in which they experienced the grace of God that were mysterious and foreign to me. Their profound reverence for the sacraments and their commitment to the St. Peter community inspired me. This was faith done differently than what I was used to. I needed to see for myself.
I soon found myself spending a lot of time at St. Peter. I often went to Mass with my roommates there. I learned to pray the rosary for the first time there. I did catechism with Fr. Daniel and a few months of RCIA there. I would even spend a few late nights studying or reading with friends in the Upper Room.
St. Peter became for me a gateway into the vastness of the Church in all her splendor and rich history. After much prayer and careful discernment, I finally decided to join the Church and receive the sacraments on a beautiful Sunday in February in the presence of my friends and family. I could hardly hold back tears of joy as Fr. Daniel poured holy water over my head, baptizing me in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as he anointed my head in blessed oil while I was accompanied by my sponsor, my old roommate Luke Ungarino, and as I got to my knees to humbly receive for the first time, the true Body and Blood of my savior, Jesus Christ. This was what I had been yearning for all this time – to experience God’s love for me through sacramental grace and to grow in love for Him all the while.
Beautiful things have happened at St Peter, and my story is only one among many. So many lives have been changed by this community, and God willing, so many more will be. Your support of St Peter Catholic Student Center would mean many things to many people, but to me it would mean that, for what it’s worth, my story has touched you in some way and that you want more people to experience what I was able to experience. It would mean that St. Peter can continue to be a respite and place of great learning and beautiful worship for faithful young Christians.
My prayers are with you as we joyfully and triumphantly celebrate the coming of Christ in our lives.
Kevin Renois (BBA ’16)
PS – Donations through the end of the year will be doubled by a few generous benefactors through a $40,000 matching gift challenge. Please give generously, consider joining our permanent community of support through the Living Faith Society, and as always, please pray for the young people who are impacted by this beautiful Catholic campus ministry at Baylor University!
(Photos: Kevin Renois)