I remember my time actively searching out the Catholic Blazers at the Student Organization Expo at orientation. I saw them and immediately signed up. I never knew that inputting my information into that small electronic tablet would change my life so completely and open various doors of opportunity for me – for friendship, increase in faith, and much more. I was raised Catholic, but I feel like I never truly lived my faith out the way I should have. Nor did I completely understand my faith, and boy did I quickly figure out that I would still be learning so much more for the rest of my life! My family and I occasionally attended Mass when we felt like it, and I went to CCD most of the time. I barely experienced the beauty of Confession, and I never realized what Adoration was until my first experience at SEEK2019! Now, Adoration has become one of my favorite times to rest and speak with the Lord, and I’ll explain why this is so important to me in my faith journey.
When I began college, I knew that something was missing, but I didn’t know quite what it was. I think God was pushing me in the right direction to fulfill my deepest desires, because he led me to St. Stephen’s. I looked up the Mass schedule and challenged myself to just attend weekly Sunday Mass – my first stepping stone of my lifelong faith journey! I wanted to stay consistent. This is also what prompted me to seek out a new community that would help me be accountable. I found the Catholic Blazers on Engage and found them at orientation, and I signed up. I didn’t really know what they had in store for me, but I knew that I needed a good community to walk with me on this journey.
My first Mass at St. Stephen’s was definitely an experience unlike any other. I was greeted warmly by two lovely ladies who gave me a name tag, and I heard the beautiful music played at Mass by the exceptional choir we have. I remember looking around and telling myself, “There is something special here, and I don’t know what it is… but I kind of like it.” After Mass, Ben Pluta, a FOCUS missionary during that time at UAB, asked for students to sign up for a Bible Study. I had never been in my own Bible Study before, but it must have been the Holy Spirit that prompted me to sign up for my very first Bible Study, because I remember signing up for one that very day. Through this Bible Study, I found a community of people that were striving to be holy saints, and their eagerness inspired me.
Now, all of this was a great start for someone who never really had this type of community or experience with Christ before, but it was when I attended SEEK2019 in January of my Freshman year that inspired me to really pursue a life of holiness. At SEEK, I attended Confession for the first time in years. Let me just tell you that I had no idea what I was doing, and standing in a long line for a while intimidated me. However, God’s presence at that conference gave me courage – He gave me strength. I desired Jesus in my heart, and I longed for his grace. My faith became tested even further on this trip, because I received a call during my trip that my grandfather passed away suddenly. For the first time in a long time, I turned to Jesus to comfort me.
That night, I experienced the Body of Christ in a new way during Adoration. It was my first time at Adoration, and I laid down all my worries, pains, and trials to Him during that full hour of grace. The time I spent speaking to the Lord about my loss and hurt revealed my deepest wounds, but it also opened up the infinite amount of grace and love that the Lord had for me in that given moment. I experienced the glory of God and felt so near to His pure heart in that very moment. After that trip, I became more deeply involved in my community and in my faith. I desired for others to experience Christ so intimately similar to the way I experienced Him, but I know that everyone’s connection to Him will look just a little bit different.
After writing this out, I have found that my faith journey has grown so significantly in just three years. I never would have thought that joining St. Stephen’s and the Catholic Blazers would lead me to where I am right now today. I am so blessed and thankful for this journey that I have walked on with every person I have encountered during my time here in this beautiful community. I have found that sainthood and holiness is possible here. I have found the people that inspire me to be my very best self. I know that St. Stephen’s has “something special” unlike any other parish.
Most importantly, I know that my journey doesn’t end here, but it’s a grand start to something beautiful.
Rachel Moore, UAB, class of 2022
It was Friday evening. I hopped into the car and drove down to the retreat center, and immediately began listening to talks. I remember that before I arrived, I really did not have any expectations. I was just anticipating this to be a normal retreat that re-ignited my faith; but other than that, I was not expecting this retreat to do much.
So the night continued, and God began to show me the parts of my heart that were hurting and needed healing. All of my wounds and fears that I have buried began to appear. My soul was aching to be healed, a healing that can only come from Christ.
That night I gave it all up to God and He accepted it. He showed me the enormous love He has for me. After laying everything down at God’s feet and trusting Him with my life, I was able to open up and accept the wounds that I had buried. He brought so much peace and joy into my life, a peace that I could only gain through Him.
The atmosphere of Awakening only helped. Coming to college and being by yourself for the first time is really hard, and often it is challenging to see the love that God has surrounded you with. While I was at Awakening, I was able to see the amount of love God has for me, for the first time. The amount of love these people had was more astonishing, and it only made me realize how much more God’s love for me was: TO THE MAX.
-Anthony Gordillo, UAB, class of 2024
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.
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