Hi! My name is Elizabeth Stephens and I am an incoming sophomore at UAB! St. Stephens has played a huge role in my faith journey this past year. Before coming to college, I hadn’t really heard of FOCUS or their missionaries, and the first time I met them, I didn’t even realize who they were. I met Karly, Sarah, and Carissa at a women’s night hosted at Carissa’s house. They were so friendly, welcoming, and personable. They made me feel welcome when I wasn’t sure if I would be able to transition into a new prayer community. As I got to know them throughout the next year, I began to witness the beautiful and personal relationships each of these wonderful people had with God, and learn how to deepen my relationship with God. There were very few times I would head to St. Stephen’s and not find a FOCUS missionary there either in prayer, playing pool with students, or discipling. They are always so happy to give advice on how to go deeper into prayer, go over a passage in the bible with me and pray for me, which are things I deeply appreciate. I have had so many good times and conversations with them, both faith-related and not, and I cherish my relationships with them.
The FOCUS missionaries evangelize with students on our campus green once a week, and I decided to go join them in this after my classes to see what it was like. I knew God was calling me to reach out to my fellow students in some way so that they could encounter Him, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I was really nervous to be praying publicly in a place where so many of my peers hung out, since I didn’t know how they would feel if I shared my faith with them. While the women prayed a Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet for everyone on campus, the men went out and asked other men if they needed prayers. After praying, we went and asked the women on campus if they needed someone to pray for them. The missionary I was with never pressured me to speak, but only encouraged me to pray with them and be bold in my faith. Eventually, I felt enough courage to approach someone who needed prayers, and it was a very moving moment. I was reminded by the FOCUS missionaries how much those around me need, just as much as I do, a Christ-like gesture. Because of them, I have gained the boldness that I need to approach others with Christ’s love.
I am so grateful for our FOCUS missionaries and I can’t wait to get to know them better in these next couple of years!
-Elizabeth Stephens, UAB, class of 2023
Before I came to college, I don’t think I fully believed the words “God has a plan for you.” I had heard it before and probably had said it many times myself, but I am sure now that those were half-spoken or half-believed words. After being at UAB for two years, and specifically being a part of the St. Stephen’s community, I have come to realize that God does have a plan for me, and for you as well.
Coming to college was definitely a transition. I come from a family of seven, so living on my own and going to Mass on my own was completely new territory. I went to St. Stephen’s not knowing anyone, and to be honest, it took a few times to get really comfortable there. It was at St. Stephen’s, and being with the people I have met there, that I have come to recognize that God has a specific purpose and plan for my life and every single person’s life in the world.
Being a part of the community at St. Stephens has opened many doors for me, not only academically and socially, but most importantly, spiritually. It’s through being involved there that I came to be a core-team member for the St. Francis Xavier Middle School Youth Group; I was led to study abroad in Italy; and I applied, and was accepted, to serve as a Totus Tuus missionary last summer. I have switched majors a few times and now know what I want to do with my life (ha-ha, I think). I have met some of the most wonderful and faith-filled humans who have become some of my greatest friends and call me higher as a person, and as a child of God.
Most importantly I have become more involved and more on fire for my Catholic Faith than I have ever been in my life. I began going to Eucharistic Adoration, Confession and daily Mass on a regular basis (after some time and many persistent invitations); I became a sacristan, which has completely transformed the way I view and participate in Mass; I not only joined a bible study, but also led a bible study (shout out to Mabry and Ana!), and just showed up at events going on at St. Stephen’s. It is through some incredible FOCUS missionaries, priests, bible study leaders, friends that turned into roommates, and many brothers and sisters in Christ (a lot of whom I was given the privilege of meeting at or through St. Stephen’s!) that I am able to continually seek Christ, and have a yearning to share my faith with others.
I remember being hesitant to choose UAB, none of my friends were going there, and I honestly had no clue what I wanted to do… it wasn’t looking too good. But through the grace of God, I am getting ready to head back for my third year. Going into this year, I find an enormous amount of joy, consolation, and confidence in the fact that my Heavenly Father has placed me here with a purpose! I look back on my time so far at UAB, being a part of the community at St. Stephen’s, building Christ-centered friendships with people who are leading me to Heaven, continuously growing in my faith, laughing and crying, and I realize what a blessing it has been in my life, and will continue to be in my life. I am so thankful for a community like St. Stephen’s. Every day has its ups and downs, and while I have no idea what the future holds, I live every day knowing that God has placed me where I am. He has put amazing people in my life, and this brings me incredible peace.
-Marilou Jackson, UAB, class of 2022
After graduating high school, I was sad to leave my parish youth group and fearful that college ministry would not be as vibrant. Saint Stephen the Martyr Campus Ministry far exceeded my expectations and truly deepened me in my faith. Not only did I have a deepening of my faith, looking back now on my time in college, I can truly say it was the reason that I was able to keep the Faith at a secular university. Saint Stephen’s has such a vibrant community of Catholic, college students; not only the students at UAB, but also the other Birmingham colleges of Samford and Birmingham-Southern College. This community of Birmingham, Catholic, college students readily welcomed me into, not only fellowship, but also lasting friendships that I will I carry with me for the rest of my life and into eternity.
One of my first memories of St. Stephen’s was when I attended an Adoration night the week before Fall classes began. I had visited the chapel before a few times, but the space didn’t quite make sense until I was there before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Having that time to rest with the Lord in the peace and stillness of the sanctuary, while the busy city of Birmingham continued rushing about below, was a strong assurance that His graces would continue to be with me as I began my college career. The chapel changed in my eye from a jarring space that was kind of awkward to a beautiful place that was comforting within the context of the Eucharist. The graces of that night were not only spiritual. After Adoration, I got to meet some of the students, but since school had not yet begun, there was nothing else going on at the chapel. So, a large group of us decided to go to Chick-Fil-A and spend time together. I truly felt welcomed into the group and have continued to feel that way since.
Saint Stephen’s is truly blessed to be a mission out of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the seat of the diocese. As such, a university student is exposed to the many wonders contained within the Diocese of Birmingham. While discerning a vocation to the priesthood of this diocese, I took full advantage of this privileged position and was plugged into several parishes throughout the diocese, regularly making retreats with student groups to EWTN, Saint Bernard’s Abbey, Casa Maria, and events happening at Our Lady of Sorrows, Holy Rosary, and Saint Paul’s. It was the greatest gift to be introduced, not only to the community of Saint Stephens, but also to Catholic life within Birmingham. This college ministry is not only on an evangelical, apologetic, or catechetical mission, but also on a mission of serving the students’ needs for a strong support group of fellow believers, and building the student up in the four pillars of formation: intellectual, pastoral, human, and spiritual. My time at St. Stephen’s has not only made me a better Catholic, but an altogether better person.
-Mark Moore II, UAB, Class of 2020
St. Stephen's is home to students from UAB, Samford, and Birmingham-Southern.
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