Let me begin by introducing myself: Hello! My name is Elizabeth Pryor and I am a sophomore at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I am a Pre-Nursing Major and a proud member of Catholic Blazers. I devote a lot of my time to hobbies including reading, crafting, cooking, exercising, and enjoying time in nature. I also love board games! Throughout my life I have grown to love prayer and service, but most importantly, I have become aware of my identity in Christ and of the relationship that He desires to have with me.
My journey at St. Stephen’s started before my first semester as a UAB student. During the summer after I graduated high school in 2019, I found an intense longing to grow deeper in my relationship with God. I knew that a lot of students, after the new freedom and independence found from leaving home and beginning college, lost their faith. I never wanted to forget the love that God has for me or the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross, so I sought ways to ensure that I would be able to cultivate and grow my relationship with God. I found FOCUS missionaries online and reached out. I looked online at churches near UAB and once I found St. Stephen the Martyr Chapel, I wrote all of the events listed on their calendar into my planner. I knew that I wanted to grow closer to Christ and His Church during my time in college. What I didn’t know is that Christ’s Church, specifically in Birmingham, at St. Stephen’s, wanted the same thing for me.
The moment I walked into the student lounge before my first Mass at St. Stephen’s, I was overwhelmed by the love and joy that each student had. After Mass, I got to meet all of the FOCUS missionaries and other students from Birmingham. I found myself at a table full of holy men and women who wanted to know about me and desired for me to grow closer to Christ. It was such an incredible encounter and I felt so overwhelmingly loved and appreciated. I immediately felt like I had a home. As the semester progressed, the parishioners of St. Stephen’s taught me about fellowship and that God literally made each one of us to be in relationship with others. They invited me to prayer and taught me that there are many different ways to pray. I was encouraged to love my neighbors, especially the ones that I did not get along with. I met friends that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The people at St. Stephen’s love God and their neighbor, not only at Church, but in the community as well. I never felt judged by my peer or as if I had to prove myself to anyone. I was simply loved and welcomed as a daughter of Christ because that is who I am.
I was so excited to have met such a wonderful group of people and I felt like nothing could take away the fire within each one of them. Even after school was shut down due to the Coronavirus, Bible Studies, fellowship, and communal prayer never stopped. I would get texts regularly, amid the stress of everything, asking how I was doing and if there was any way that people could pray for me. It was incredible to see such wonderful examples of how to live like Christ throughout a global pandemic. While some communities struggled to stay connected, the students at St. Stephen’s showed what a family was and exemplified resilience and strength rooted in God and His Church.
I am so excited to have had such an amazing first year of college. In my upcoming years, I can’t wait to see other students have similar experiences as I did!
-Elizabeth Pryor, UAB, Class of 2023