It is very common, as humans, to abuse our free will, and think that our plan is the plan. I am very guilty of this, but what happened became a rock to set my faith in. My name is Jonah Celeski. I am a sophomore? Junior? At UAB. I’m from Huntsville, Alabama. I am a brother of the International Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta, more commonly known as FIJI. Some of you may know me as the guy with the funny hair that sings at Thursday Mass. This is my faith story.
Growing up, I was, like many of us, a good Catholic kid. Besides the occasional rebellion, my faith was strong, and it showed in my actions – and then came high school. Somewhere along the way, because of my demeanor, people began to stereotype me as somebody who was, to say the least, not very religious. If you want to ask me what stereotype, come talk to me in person. Regardless, I began to live up to the stereotype, because that is who I thought I was. I remember at one point that my best friend told me about somebody finding out I was Catholic. He said they were surprised and they thought I was an atheist! This hit me hard, but not hard enough. I continued to make bad decisions, and my faith suffered because of it. This continued until senior year, when I decided to get my act together so I could join the military without any trouble. At this point, I was so far in, and so deep in guilt, that I actually couldn’t believe that anyone, let alone God, loved me. I was stuck in a weird, backwards, twisted, prideful ditch, and I couldn’t get myself out alone. I couldn’t bring myself to receive Communion, even directly after Confession and penance. I felt that it would all be over once I joined the military and left my hometown. Now, as for the military…
The U.S. Army was my key to unlock the ideal life I had in mind. I’ve wanted to go into the medical field for as long as I can remember, and my dad introduced a round-about way that would mean the whole thing would be monetarily free. It sounded too good to be true! I decided on that early on and when it came time to take my ACT, I didn’t because I didn’t need to! I was joining the U.S. Military, baby! The summer of 2018 came around, I had graduated high school, I had just gotten my National Certification of Emergency Medical Technicians, and I thought I was headed into the army as a 68N cardiovascular technician. We started hitting some roadblocks with my recruiter, and next thing I knew, it was the fall, I was jobless, I was friendless, and I was painfully alone. I finally got the call to get to the recruiting office ASAP! They told me they were sending me to the medical processing center so I could get the signing and swearing in process started. What happened next quite literally changed my life.
I failed the hearing test. Twice. I never saw it coming. I have acoustic trauma that keeps me from hearing the frequencies that the army needs of their soldiers. The significance of this is that I never had just one incident that messed my hearing up. All my life I’ve been around guns, loud cars, football stadiums, loud music, lawn mowers, pressure washers, motorcycles, you name it. If it was loud, my friends liked it, and we made it louder by not wearing hearing protection. This is my fault, and it was dumb for us not to be smarter. All these things that happened years before I tried to join the military prevented me from actually joining. There are few coincidences in life, and they are rarer when they are reoccurring and so significant that they turn your life upside down. This was a wake-up call from God, and the military wasn’t the plan.
To keep this short, after many months of emotional pain from not knowing what I was going do with my life, I ended up here at UAB, which was once again a small chance. I almost didn’t come UAB, and the only reason I listed it on the ACT website was because I was prompted to add another college to my list. I’m here now, and I’m doing my best to find out why. There is no possible way that the things that happened to me were coincidental. I saw the power of the Lord and decided to bow to it.
Take every moment you have and live in it completely. Don’t plan so hard for the future because whatever is divinely written into existence is going to happen, and you don’t know if that is your plan or not. Have no expectations. Face your fears. Do that thing you’re scared of. Dance in the rain. Kiss your loved ones. Ask someone on a date. Hike a mountain. Run a marathon. Learn guitar. Whatever it is, get off your phone and go experience life. You are not on your own terms, and you will never know what’s next.
-Jonah Celeski, class of 2022
St. Stephen's is home to students from UAB, Samford, and Birmingham-Southern.
We hope you enjoy reading their stories about what God has done for them.
To support campus ministry at St. Stephen's, please click here!