A Sense of Community
I was born and raised Catholic. I went to Catholic school from kindergarten through eighth grade and religion class was more of an extra history lesson to me. It was boring, church was boring. When I started going to public high school, I didn't have many Catholic friends. I went to church every Sunday with my family and we prayed together occasionally, but that was the extent of my prayer life. I didn’t have a great community to help me learn and grow in my faith. When there were youth groups or bible studies, I would rarely attend them, and I wasn’t comfortable enough to participate. My faith was not my top priority, and towards the end of my senior year, I began to realize how detrimental my life would be if I didn’t change this.
I am currently attending the University of Alabama at Birmingham. When I got to UAB’s campus I decided I would change my prayer life for the better. I knew of St. Stephen’s and was lucky enough to have friends already involved in the Catholic community there. I joined a bible study and started attending events like Abide and Adore and Thursday Mass and dinner. I felt welcomed and loved. The St. Stephen’s community gave me a sense of what being Catholic actually meant. I was encouraged to go to Adoration, daily Mass, and retreats. Before college, I didn’t have a group of people to help me in my walk toward Christ; but at St. Stephen’s, everyone was encouraging and more than willing to share Christ’s love. I could tell this was a group of people who were actively striving to live out their faith and bring people closer to God. St. Stephen’s was the Christ-centered fellowship I had been missing my whole life.
I have only been attending UAB for a year, but I have already grown so much in my faith and in my love for the Catholic Church. The community at St. Stephen’s helped me realize why I was Catholic. I went from dreading Sunday Mass to going almost every day. Being taught about the beauty of the Mass and the Eucharist made me realize how incredibly magnificent it is. Mass is nowhere near boring to me now. The person I was in high school and the person I am today are so very different. My priorities have been changed for the absolute best. I can honestly say my life became much more joyful, brighter, and full of love when I was shown the beauty of Christ’s love again. My first year at St. Stephens revealed to me how loved I am, and I cannot thank the St. Stephens community enough for that. I can't wait to see what God has planned for my future at UAB and St. Stephens. I know it will be absolutely beautiful!
-Julianne Naro, UAB, Class of 2023
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