…and it made all the difference.

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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And they held all things in common

By Debbie Shannon, Director of Development, St. Peter’s

Blogger’s Note: It was my intention to write my final official post for the Baylor Catholic Blog on the subject of “community”, being as I am about to depart from this community and ministry that is very dear to my heart. Unfortunately, numerous projects and deadlines delayed my writing, and so my regularly scheduled ‘Third Wednesday’ posting date got delayed until today. As it was, Wednesday, April 17, was the night of the explosion in West, Texas. My topic is still on community, but has become so much more poignant in light of the suffering by our “next door neighbors” in West. I would like to dedicate my post to the Czech community of West.

“And they were of one heart and soul; …(and) they shared everything in common.”

Of all the qualities that are the essence of our Triune God that I am most grateful for, besides Love and Mercy, is that of Relationship. Our God is a God of relationship. In a constant exchange of love, between each Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Creator overflows His infinite love and mercy on His creation. We are, in fact, created in response to the only ‘need’, or maybe more accurately, ‘desire’ that God has…the desire to love. (I hope that isn’t a theologically unsound statement…but you get what I mean.)

And, then, made in His image and likeness, we are ‘wired’ for relationship as well. It is in relationship we most profoundly reflect God to others.  It is in relationship that we most likely find Him in the first place.  Even the hermits of the early days of the Church discovered that permanent and total isolation was not the best, or easiest, way to pursue deeper unity with God, and so the ‘monastic community’ was born.  Even cloistered religious are profoundly focused on finding God in their little community set apart.

We need community.  We find God in community.  We find God in each other there, and we find God in ourselves there.

I have been profoundly blessed with the most life-giving relationships over the years. I was born into a loving and nurturing family who took me to God in Baptism and formed me in the catechism of the Catholic Church.  I was the oldest of 12 siblings and grew up learning how to share, to forgive, to love in that domestic church that is called family.

I experienced my first community outside the protective walls of my home and family in Catholic schools, where I was further formed in the challenges of give and take, good and bad choices and looking past irritations and hurts to still ‘be friends’ despite the effort it can require.  I moved on to college life, and a far more vast community of potential relationships, where I learned to choose wisely those in whom I would invest time – sometimes because they were a good influence on me, and sometimes because I might be a good influence on them.  Ultimately, it was through those college relationships that I had my first profound “awakening” of faith.

Later, God granted me a new family, with and through my husband. We have six wonderful children and now two grandchildren! In this intimate community, I learned patience and tolerance and the wonder and awe of being a co-creator with God in bringing forth new life. I learned the challenges of parenting which required that I reach out in earnest for God’s gifts of wisdom and counsel and understanding.  I still do. In the covenant relationship of marriage and my husband’s faithfulness, I see God.  In each of my children’s faces, I see the goodness of God.

Over the years, our family traveled and lived in numerous cities from the east to west coasts and in between.  Most of the closest friends I would develop in each new town came from my parish community as I would jump in and get involved in various ministries.  These communities held so many wonderful friends that brought me many blessings and reflected the face of Jesus to me and His amazing way of appearing in an infinite variety of faces, personalities and walks of life.  How blessed is the man (woman) who has friends! As much as I would mourn the loss of contact with these friends over the years, when life would require us to move again, God always had new ‘best friends’ waiting for me around the bend.

And then, in His infinite love and generosity, God granted me a new and very special community when we moved to the city of Waco, Texas just three years ago.  He planted me in the midst of a ‘houseful’ of Catholic college students at St. Peter Catholic Student Center at Baylor University! The face of Jesus Christ practically blinds you amidst the wonderful, faith-filled students I have had the privilege of developing relationships with over those three years as a staff member of St. Peter’s.  Some have reflected Him through their profound faith and inspiring devotion to worship. Others reflect His joy in their gusto for life and fun and silliness.  Many reflect His Divine Providence in the way I see Him provide comfort and guidance through our ministries to those who are struggling with the stress of studies, relationships or life decisions.  And even the faces of the students I don’t know reflect Him through their youthfulness, where I see the hope and promise of goodness and potential that I know is in each of their lives, and that I know God is just waiting to offer them.  I see God at St. Peter’s Catholic Student Center and He is so beautiful!

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Community is one of the greatest gifts God gives to us! We give and we receive from Him there.  We are challenged and we are comforted.  We learn and we teach.  We love and we are loved.

This week, we were challenged by the horrific tragedy of a deadly explosion in the community of West, Texas.  Here in Central Texas, we are witnessing a community challenged, but comforted by each other, as well as other communities reaching out to them.  We see their love for each other in grief, but also being loved by the surrounding communities, who may not know them personally, but are bound with them by the larger community that is the Body of Christ.  Our own student community of St. Peter’s has responded with genuine compassion and desire to help by giving blood, offering prayer vigils, and lending a hand with supplies and other means.

For If They Fall, the One Will Lift Up His Fellow

God’s great ‘desire’ to love stands parallel to His great ‘desire’ to see us love one another, for in this, we love Him as well.  Let us all thank God for our communities.

I thank God for mine, and especially, as I move on to a new community soon, I thank God for St. Peter’s and the Catholic students it serves.  I have been blessed by you and will carry you in my hearts always.

Our Restless Souls

By: Debbie Shannon

St. Augustine said, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

I believe we long for intimacy our entire life because we are seeking that from which we came.  Like a screaming newborn babe seeks out his mother’s breast after being forced into this world, only calming and finding comfort after reattaching to her, we are rooting and seeking our entire life to reconnect with God.  Separated by original sin, our soul knows it is ultimately destined for union with God.

God wired us for relationship and community to teach us about intimacy and draw us back into union with Him.  Community and intimate relationships are a means to that end.  We can find Jesus in each other. They are not the end in themselves, however.  No human relationship can ever fully satisfy us.  We must continue to seek what we were made for…God.

When you are in love with another person, you enjoy it when they hold you with their arms around you.  It can be the same way with God, only better. Your desire and longing to be held by another person is evidence of your need to be held by God.

Love the caress of God. Cling to His presence and hate clinging to anything else.   You can trust God to lavish enough of His presence to quench your thirsty need for love.  Otherwise, it wouldn’t be possible for you to make God become your one and only pursuit.  Your need would only drive you to “keep looking” toward people – who only have the same need for God as you.

God made you with desire.  Fill yourself with Him.