growing up catholic essay

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How growing up catholic changed my life, i don't think i have ever felt more at peace than i do now.

How Growing Up Catholic Changed My Life

Growing up in the Catholic Church, I was taught a lot of things. I was in Sunday school for the majority of my childhood. I went to church every Saturday evening with my Grandmother along with my mom and my sister. As a little kid, of course, I complained. I would have much rather been outside in the mud getting dirty, but I was told that it was sort of a responsibility to go to church every weekend. There is a lot that goes into being a Catholic like confession, the sacraments, and their very traditional views of the Bible and its messages.

I'm not saying that growing up Catholic was a bad thing. It wasn't, not even close. I had a huge family that I love very much, I had people surround me that cared about me even if they weren't family. St. Charles was the only Catholic church in the little town that I grew up in, so everyone knew everything about everyone. I lost my two front teeth and everyone knew about it before Saturday night mass. We were a very tight-knit group of people. It sometimes felt like the whole church was one, big, giant family coming together for Sunday dinner. The friendships that I made will never go away. Growing up, when making the sacraments you usually had to have a sponsor, well my sponsor was my best friend. He was there through all the steps that I had to go through to get closer to God in my faith. He supported me when I was struggling to understand the traditions that we practiced. One year, we had given up the same item for Lent "so we can struggle together and we can also help each other" he told me.

A lot of the time when I mention being Catholic, people have some sort of comment. When they did make a comment, I had no qualms about sticking up to them, some days that got me in trouble. Some of the comments were along the lines of "Oh man how about those priests" or "Wow you guys sit and stand a lot." Well, I'm not going to deny the sitting and standing part because it gets real annoying real quick. Any comment that anyone made didn't stop me from believing in my faith, you could say that it made me stronger and want to go to church even more. As I got older that changed quite a bit.

Like normal, I made my First Communion and then my Confirmation. I didn't really start objecting on my own until right before I started my Confirmation classes. It was then that I realized I didn't really believe in the same things that the Church did. My mom really forced the issue when she made me make my Confirmation. Of course, I eventually did it, but I hated every moment of it, and I began to resent my mom for making me do it. After I made my Confirmation, my mom left it up to me to choose to go to church, she wasn't going to make me go anymore. "You had all the information I could put in your hand to make an informed decision about your faith, there were things about your faith you would learn when you made your Confirmation that I couldn't teach you."

Don't get me wrong, they made the classes as fun as they could. I made a lot of friends and learned quite a lot about my faith that I didn't know. Some I agreed with, some I didn't, and believe me, my opinions changed so many times I lost count a long time ago, but the churches opinions and beliefs didn't. That's what got the ball rolling.

I'm sitting here writing this as a freshman in college. Have I been to church since I made my Confirmation when I was a junior in high school? No, not really. I just hate sitting and standing all the time, (insert the most sarcastic tone you can muster here) I haven't gone in that long because I chose not to. I'm still a good person, I'm kind, and you will never feel uncomfortable in my house. Does it mean I'm going to Hell? I don't know, that's up to God. Does it mean that I don't believe in God? No, I believe there is a God and that he will show up when we need him the most. Does that mean I don't pray anymore? No, I pray every day for multiple reasons. Growing up in the Catholic faith has helped shape me into the person I am, mixed with my own opinions, it will always be a big part of my life and I wouldn't change that even if I could, but I don't identify as Catholic anymore. I felt like a fish out of water.

I had long discussions with my mom about this, and she has been nothing but supportive of me and I couldn't thank her enough. Although she doesn't agree with my choices, she said it was my decision. "I hope that one day you find your way back, that you can be at peace with yourself." To be honest, I don't think I have ever felt more at peace than I do now.

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Waitlisted for a college class here's what to do, dealing with the inevitable realities of college life..

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Don't freak out

This is a rule you should continue to follow no matter what you do in life, but is especially helpful in this situation.

Email the professor

Around this time, professors are getting flooded with requests from students wanting to get into full classes. This doesn't mean you shouldn't burden them with your email; it means they are expecting interested students to email them. Send a short, concise message telling them that you are interested in the class and ask if there would be any chance for you to get in.

Attend the first class

Often, the advice professors will give you when they reply to your email is to attend the first class. The first class isn't the most important class in terms of what will be taught. However, attending the first class means you are serious about taking the course and aren't going to give up on it.

Keep attending class

Every student is in the same position as you are. They registered for more classes than they want to take and are "shopping." For the first couple of weeks, you can drop or add classes as you please, which means that classes that were once full will have spaces. If you keep attending class and keep up with assignments, odds are that you will have priority. Professors give preference to people who need the class for a major and then from higher to lower class year (senior to freshman).

Have a backup plan

For two weeks, or until I find out whether I get into my waitlisted class, I will be attending more than the usual number of classes. This is so that if I don't get into my waitlisted class, I won't have a credit shortage and I won't have to fall back in my backup class. Chances are that enough people will drop the class, especially if it is very difficult like computer science, and you will have a chance. In popular classes like art and psychology, odds are you probably won't get in, so prepare for that.

Remember that everything works out at the end

Life is full of surprises. So what if you didn't get into the class you wanted? Your life obviously has something else in store for you. It's your job to make sure you make the best out of what you have.

Navigating the Talking Stage: 21 Essential Questions to Ask for Connection

It's mandatory to have these conversations..

Whether you met your new love interest online , through mutual friends, or another way entirely, you'll definitely want to know what you're getting into. I mean, really, what's the point in entering a relationship with someone if you don't know whether or not you're compatible on a very basic level?

Consider these 21 questions to ask in the talking stage when getting to know that new guy or girl you just started talking to:

1. What do you do for a living?

What someone does for a living can tell a lot about who they are and what they're interested in! Their career reveals a lot more about them than just where they spend their time to make some money.

2. What's your favorite color?

OK, I get it, this seems like something you would ask a Kindergarten class, but I feel like it's always good to know someone's favorite color . You could always send them that Snapchat featuring you in that cute shirt you have that just so happens to be in their favorite color!

3. Do you have any siblings?

This one is actually super important because it's totally true that people grow up with different roles and responsibilities based on where they fall in the order. You can tell a lot about someone just based on this seemingly simple question.

4. What's your favorite television show?

OK, maybe this isn't a super important question, but you have to know ASAP if you can quote Michael Scott or not. If not, he probably isn't the one. Sorry, girl.

5. When is your birthday?

You can then proceed to do the thing that every girl does without admitting it and see how compatible your zodiacs are.

6. What's your biggest goal in life?

If you're like me, you have big goals that you want to reach someday, and you want a man behind you who also has big goals and understands what it's like to chase after a dream. If his biggest goal is to see how quickly he can binge-watch " Grey's Anatomy " on Netflix , you may want to move on.

7. If you had three wishes granted to you by a genie, what would they be?

This is a go-to for an insight into their personality. Based on how they answer, you can tell if they're goofy, serious, or somewhere in between.

8. What's your favorite childhood memory?

For some, this may be a hard question if it involves a family member or friend who has since passed away . For others, it may revolve around a tradition that no longer happens. The answers to this question are almost endless!

9. If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?

We all have parts of our lives and stories that we wish we could change. It's human nature to make mistakes. This question is a little bit more personal but can really build up the trust level.

10. Are you a cat or a dog person?

I mean, duh! If you're a dog person, and he is a cat person, it's not going to work out.

11. Do you believe in a religion or any sort of spiritual power?

Personally, I am a Christian, and as a result, I want to be with someone who shares those same values. I know some people will argue that this question is too much in the talking stage , but why go beyond the talking stage if your personal values will never line up?

12. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Even homebodies have a must visit place on their bucket list !

13. What is your ideal date night?

Hey, if you're going to go for it... go for it!

14. Who was/is your celebrity crush?

For me, it was hands-down Nick Jonas . This is always a fun question to ask!

15. What's a good way to cheer you up if you're having a bad day?

Let's be real, if you put a label on it, you're not going to see your significant other at their best 24/7.

16. Do you have any tattoos?

This can lead to some really good conversations, especially if they have a tattoo that has a lot of meaning to them!

17. Can you describe yourself in three words?

It's always interesting to see if how the person you're talking to views their personal traits lines ups with the vibes you're getting.

18. What makes you the most nervous in life?

This question can go multiple different directions, and it could also be a launching pad for other conversations.

19. What's the best gift you have ever received? 

Admittedly, I have asked this question to friends as well, but it's neat to see what people value.

20. What do you do to relax/have fun?

Work hard, play hard, right?

21. What are your priorities at this phase of your life?

This is always interesting because no matter how compatible your personalities may be, if one of you wants to be serious and the other is looking for something casual, it's just not going to work.

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Challah vs. Easter Bread: A Delicious Dilemma

Is there really such a difference in challah bread or easter bread.

Ever since I could remember, it was a treat to receive Easter Bread made by my grandmother. We would only have it once a year and the wait was excruciating. Now that my grandmother has gotten older, she has stopped baking a lot of her recipes that require a lot of hand usage--her traditional Italian baking means no machines. So for the past few years, I have missed enjoying my Easter Bread.

A few weeks ago, I was given a loaf of bread called Challah (pronounced like holla), and upon my first bite, I realized it tasted just like Easter Bread. It was so delicious that I just had to make some of my own, which I did.

The recipe is as follows:


2 tsp active dry or instant yeast 1 cup lukewarm water 4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup white granulated sugar 2 tsp salt 2 large eggs 1 large egg yolk (reserve the white for the egg wash) 1/4 cup neutral-flavored vegetable oil


  • Combine yeast and a pinch of sugar in small bowl with the water and stir until you see a frothy layer across the top.
  • Whisk together 4 cups of the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Make a well in the center of the flour and add in eggs, egg yolk, and oil. Whisk these together to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.
  • Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry and mix until difficult to move.
  • Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes. If the dough seems very sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky, but no longer like bubblegum. The dough has finished kneading when it is soft, smooth, and holds a ball-shape.
  • Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place somewhere warm. Let the dough rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  • Separate the dough into four pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope roughly 1-inch thick and 16 inches long.
  • Gather the ropes and squeeze them together at the very top. Braid the pieces in the pattern of over, under, and over again. Pinch the pieces together again at the bottom.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment and lift the loaf on top. Sprinkle the loaf with a little flour and drape it with a clean dishcloth. Place the pan somewhere warm and away from drafts and let it rise until puffed and pillowy, about an hour.
  • Heat the oven to 350°F. Whisk the reserved egg white with a tablespoon of water and brush it all over the challah. Be sure to get in the cracks and down the sides of the loaf.
  • Slide the challah on its baking sheet into the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking. The challah is done when it is deeply browned.

I kept wondering how these two breads could be so similar in taste. So I decided to look up a recipe for Easter Bread to make a comparison. The two are almost exactly the same! These recipes are similar because they come from religious backgrounds. The Jewish Challah bread is based on kosher dietary laws. The Christian Easter Bread comes from the Jewish tradition but was modified over time because they did not follow kosher dietary laws.

A recipe for Easter bread is as follows:

2 tsp active dry or instant yeast 2/3 cup milk 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 cup white granulated sugar 2 tbs butter 2 large eggs 2 tbs melted butter 1 tsp salt

  • In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt, and yeast; stir well. Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan; heat until milk is warm and butter is softened but not melted.
  • Gradually add the milk and butter to the flour mixture; stirring constantly. Add two eggs and 1/2 cup flour; beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
  • Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  • Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal size rounds; cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each round into a long roll about 36 inches long and 1 1/2 inches thick. Using the two long pieces of dough, form a loosely braided ring, leaving spaces for the five colored eggs. Seal the ends of the ring together and use your fingers to slide the eggs between the braids of dough.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place loaf on a buttered baking sheet and cover loosely with a damp towel. Place loaf in a warm place and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Brush risen loaf with melted butter.
  • Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Both of these recipes are really easy to make. While you might need to have a day set aside for this activity, you can do things while the dough is rising or in the oven. After only a few hours, you have a delicious loaf of bread that you made from scratch, so the time and effort is really worth it!

Unlocking Lake People's Secrets: 15 Must-Knows!

There's no other place you'd rather be in the summer..

The people that spend their summers at the lake are a unique group of people.

Whether you grew up going to the lake , have only recently started going, or have only been once or twice, you know it takes a certain kind of person to be a lake person. To the long-time lake people, the lake holds a special place in your heart , no matter how dirty the water may look.

Every year when summer rolls back around, you can't wait to fire up the boat and get back out there. Here is a list of things you can probably identify with as a fellow lake-goer.

A bad day at the lake is still better than a good day not at the lake.

It's your place of escape, where you can leave everything else behind and just enjoy the beautiful summer day. No matter what kind of week you had, being able to come and relax without having to worry about anything else is the best therapy there is. After all, there's nothing better than a day of hanging out in the hot sun, telling old funny stories and listening to your favorite music.

You know the best beaches and coves to go to.

Whether you want to just hang out and float or go walk around on a beach, you know the best spots. These often have to be based on the people you're with, given that some "party coves" can get a little too crazy for little kids on board. I still have vivid memories from when I was six that scared me when I saw the things drunk girls would do for beads.

You have no patience for the guy who can't back his trailer into the water right.

When there's a long line of trucks waiting to dump their boats in the water, there's always that one clueless guy who can't get it right, and takes 5 attempts and holds up the line. No one likes that guy. One time my dad got so fed up with a guy who was taking too long that he actually got out of the car and asked this guy if he could just do it for him. So he got into the guy's car, threw it in reverse, and got it backed in on the first try. True story.

Doing the friendly wave to every boat you pass.

Similar to the "jeep wave," almost everyone waves to other boats passing by. It's just what you do, and is seen as a normal thing by everyone.

The cooler is always packed, mostly with beer.

Alcohol seems to be a big part of the lake experience, but other drinks are squeezed into the room remaining in the cooler for the kids, not to mention the wide assortment of chips and other foods in the snack bag.

Giving the idiot who goes 30 in a "No Wake Zone" a piece of your mind.

There's nothing worse than floating in the water, all settled in and minding your business, when some idiot barrels through. Now your anchor is loose, and you're left jostled by the waves when it was nice and perfectly still before. This annoyance is typically answered by someone yelling some choice words to them that are probably accompanied by a middle finger in the air.

You have no problem with peeing in the water.

It's the lake, and some social expectations are a little different here, if not lowered quite a bit. When you have to go, you just go, and it's no big deal to anyone because they do it too.

You know the frustration of getting your anchor stuck.

The number of anchors you go through as a boat owner is likely a number that can be counted on two hands. Every once in a while, it gets stuck on something on the bottom of the lake, and the only way to fix the problem is to cut the rope, and you have to replace it.

Watching in awe at the bigger, better boats that pass by.

If you're the typical lake-goer, you likely might have an average-sized boat that you're perfectly happy with. However, that doesn't mean you don't stop and stare at the fast boats that loudly speed by, or at the obnoxiously huge yachts that pass.

Knowing any swimsuit that you own with white in it is best left for the pool or the ocean.

You've learned this the hard way, coming back from a day in the water and seeing the flowers on your bathing suit that were once white, are now a nice brownish hue.

The momentary fear for your life as you get launched from the tube.

If the driver knows how to give you a good ride, or just wants to specifically throw you off, you know you're done when you're speeding up and heading straight for a big wave. Suddenly you're airborne, knowing you're about to completely wipe out, and you eat pure wake. Then you get back on and do it all again.

You're able to go to the restaurants by the water wearing minimal clothing.

One of the many nice things about the life at the lake is that everybody cares about everything a little less. Rolling up to the place wearing only your swimsuit, a cover-up, and flip flops, you fit right in. After a long day when you're sunburned, a little buzzed, and hungry, you're served without any hesitation.

Having unexpected problems with your boat.

Every once in a while you're hit with technical difficulties, no matter what type of watercraft you have. This is one of the most annoying setbacks when you're looking forward to just having a carefree day on the water, but it's bound to happen. This is just one of the joys that come along with being a boat owner.

Having a name for your boat unique to you and your life.

One of the many interesting things that make up the lake culture is the fact that many people name their boats. They can range from basic to funny, but they are unique to each and every owner, and often have interesting and clever meanings behind them.

There's no better place you'd rather be in the summer.

Summer is your all-time favorite season, mostly because it's spent at the lake. Whether you're floating in the cool water under the sun, or taking a boat ride as the sun sets, you don't have a care in the world at that moment . The people that don't understand have probably never experienced it, but it's what keeps you coming back every year.

Top 10 Reasons My School Rocks!

Why i chose a small school over a big university..

I was asked so many times why I wanted to go to a small school when a big university is so much better. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure a big university is great but I absolutely love going to a small school. I know that I miss out on big sporting events and having people actually know where it is. I can't even count how many times I've been asked where it is and I know they won't know so I just say "somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin ." But, I get to know most people at my school and I know my professors very well. Not to mention, being able to walk to the other side of campus in 5 minutes at a casual walking pace. I am so happy I made the decision to go to school where I did. I love my school and these are just a few reasons why.

1. My school is incredibly unique.

There are so many different kinds of people that each bring something really special to contribute to the school which makes it so unique.

2. I am not just a number at my school.

I am a student that my professors know about and I like knowing that my professors can watch my progress.

3. I feel like I am contributing something to the community.

I like feeling like I can make a difference on my campus.

4. I really do feel like it is my home away from home.

It isn't just my school. It is absolutely my home away from home. I feel so comfortable there and it was as hard of an adjustment as I had thought it would be.

5. My professors know me and I feel that I can easily communicate with them.

I feel like they will do anything to help students succeed. I can always go to my professors. I like knowing that I have someone looking out for me.

6. The incredible people I've met

The people I have met at my school, even after my first year, have made such a huge impact on me. I know that these are people that I will stay friends with long after college is done.

7. Opportunities

My school offers so many different opportunities to get involved in things around campus. Even writing for the Odyssey was an opportunity offered to me by my school and I decided to challenge myself by writing an article. Turns out, I really enjoy writing. I might not have had this opportunity at a bigger school.

8. Students want to learn

I feel as though I am not just learning inside the classroom at my school. I am learning outside the classroom to from my fellow classmates who want to engage about the things we have learned.

9. Ability to join a sorority and have a house full of people I know I can talk to anytime I need to

I wasn't sure if being in a sorority was something I was interested in but when I met the amazing people in the sorority and how inclusive it was, I knew that it was going to be a good thing for me. The people I've met in my sorority have been so amazing.

10. I have figured out how I learn best because my school offers so many different ways of learning.

Because of the smaller class sizes, there is more flexibility in the way the class is taught. This was helpful because I was able to try out different ways of learning and figure out which way I learn best.

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growing up catholic essay

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Disciples • Real Talk

Why are you proud to be Catholic?

growing up catholic essay

Article Details

Casey McCorry

February 10, 2020

We asked people across the Archdiocese of Detroit, “why are you proud to be Catholic?” Here’s what they shared.

Mark Grabowski, Divine Child, Dearborn

“My Catholic faith has always been a part of who I am. I was raised in a Catholic family, attended a Catholic elementary and high school and now attend John Carroll University in Cleveland, where my pride in my Catholic faith has grown as I’ve come to realize just how much God loves us, and learned to share that with my community. However, it isn’t always this easy. In college, there are so many distractions. There will be days where I lack the motivation to live out my Catholic faith. My faith has been tested and I have failed before. I have felt lost. Going to daily Mass has allowed me to grow closer to God and find myself in him and the Eucharist. It took a lot of courage and strength to continuously go to daily Mass, but seeing my relationship with God as a friend has completely changed my mindset. You have to make time to have a relationship with your friends, and it’s the same with God. Even through these days of struggle, God’s love always prevails, and this allows me to continuously be proud of my Catholic faith.”

“You have to make time to have a relationship with your friends, and it’s the same with God.”

growing up catholic essay

Camille Graves, St. Moses the Black, Detroit

I’m a Black cradle Catholic with a Detroit Catholic education from elementary school through college. I’ve lived in the same northwest Detroit neighborhood most of my life, in earshot of the bells of at least six different parishes.

I witnessed the changes in my city and, yet pride in my Catholicism not only survives but thrives. It’s forever rooted in childhood experiences, revitalized by the Eucharist, rejuvenated by singing with the Black Catholic Ministries Gospel Choir and empowered by witnessing corporal works of mercy in action.

Growing up, I was inspired by the commitment of the Sisters of Charity who educated me and the Home Visitors of Mary who embraced my neighbors. Along with all the joys of raising my children and nurturing theirs, I’m most fulfilled when experiencing Christian service. As a service coordinator, I’m frequently overwhelmed by the calls of the poor and humbled by the response of the generous. Our parish food pantry feeds the hungry and clothes the cold. Parishioners and seminarians visit our homebound, and volunteers help neighbors avoid utility shut-off or eviction. I’m so proud of being Catholic and part of such a team of joyful missionary disciples!

“I was inspired by the commitment of the Sisters of Charity who educated me and the Home Visitors of Mary who embraced my neighbors.”

growing up catholic essay

Matt Lorio, St. Paul of Tarsus, Clinton Township

“‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. Only say the word and my soul shall be healed.’ This has always been the most impactful part of the Catholic Mass for me.  Even as a young altar boy, the concept of believing in the powerful nature of that phrase began to shape who I am today: Jesus, I have no right to ask for your intercession, because I am flawed, so just say a simple word from a distance, and I’ll accept what comes from that. Right after I repeat those words at Mass, I realize how unconditionally I am loved. How fantastic it is to be able to celebrate being renewed this way at every Mass.

There have been times in my life when situations have challenged my faith, but at the core of all of these challenging times, those powerful words resonate with me. They have helped me realize, once again, that no matter what we are faced with, how dark things seem, how unworthy we may think our needs are, because of faith, we are always loved. Always. Love overcomes all. Being Catholic has taught me that, and I am proud to be Catholic.”

“Love overcomes all. Being Catholic has taught me that, and I am proud to be Catholic.”

growing up catholic essay

Maia Cook, St. Aloysius, Downtown Detroit

“I am proud to be Catholic because being Catholic means being resilient. No matter what hardships are placed in our way, we overcome them. In hard times, your faith is all that you have. The Catholic faith has taught me a sense of community. We have experienced difficult times within our church, and we depend on one another as a guide to the end of the tunnel. The Catholic church is evolving, and in my opinion, there is no better time than now to be Catholic. I love that we are able to keep the traditions we hold near and dear to our hearts, but we are also implementing modern approaches as well.”

“I am proud to be Catholic because being Catholic means being resilient.”

growing up catholic essay

Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Cepeda

“I am very proud to be Catholic, for I can share the Good News of our Lord and the true faith as an active member according to the teachings of the church. I am proud and blessed to be nurtured with the loving sacrament of the Eucharist and experience the mercy of God in the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation. I am proud to call Mary my mother and ask for her intercession as a joyful missionary of our Lord. And finally, I am proud to be surrounded by a cloud of witnesses — our saints — who intercede for me in this awesome ministry of service to the church.”

“I am proud and blessed to be nurtured with the loving sacrament of the Eucharist.”

growing up catholic essay

Lynda LoPiccolo, St. Mary Queen of Creation, New Baltimore

“I have strong faith and a close personal relationship with Jesus. I got this from the Catholic Church. I remember that even as a young girl, I loved going to Mass every Sunday morning. During the readings, I felt the Lord speaking to me … directly to me! It was so profound and touched my heart like nobody else could. I love my Catholic faith!

Where else would I go to celebrate the sacraments? Where would I go to be cleansed by the sacrament of reconciliation? Where could I go to receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ every time I partake in holy Communion? I love my Catholic faith!

There are so many opportunities to grow in our faith, to grow in our knowledge of Scripture and to grow in our relationship with Jesus. There are so many ways to give back to God and to help our neighbors in need. We have our Blessed Mother and all the angels and saints, as well as our brothers and sisters in Christ, to call upon for intercessory prayers. When traveling, we never have to go far to find a Catholic church.

I am truly blessed and proud to be Catholic. I trust in Jesus and his divine providence. I love my Catholic faith!”

“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” — John 6:68

“When traveling, we never have to go far to find a Catholic church.”

growing up catholic essay

Frank T. McAndrew Ph.D.

The Macabre Side of Growing Up Catholic

Nothing like a little blood & guts to spice up a religion.

Posted April 8, 2015

Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

There is an old saying that “ The fish are the last to discover the sea .” The meaning of this of course is that when we are completely surrounded by something it seems normal to the point of being invisible and we become oblivious to how it appears to outsiders.

Having grown up in what comedian Jim Gaffigan might describe as a “Shiite” Irish Catholic family, and protected by 17 years of Catholic education (kindergarten through college), I was more or less immune to the ubiquitous and graphic gore surrounding almost everything in my Catholic world. In fact, the first time I remember thinking about it at all was on my wedding day when a Jewish friend who had apparently never been inside of an old-school blood and guts Catholic church was blown away by what he saw there. The graphic depictions of brutality on the stained glass windows and on the stations of the cross led him to admit that he too would hate the sons of bitches who had done all of those terrible things to Jesus.

Until that moment, I don’t think that it had ever dawned on me how much Catholics celebrate death and bloodshed.

Throughout my Catholic school days we would cheerfully sing songs at Mass with stanzas such as the following from a song entitled “ Sons of God :”

Sons of God, hear his holy word, Gather ‘round the table of the Lord. EAT HIS BODY! DRINK HIS BLOOD! And we’ll sing a SONG OF LOVE.

Wikimedia Commons/Public Domian

Even in context, it is now hard for me to think of this as a “love song” unless you happen to be living on an island of cannibals.

Other songs such as “ Oh sacred head surrounded ” with happy refrains like “ Oh bleeding head so wounded, reviled and put to scorn ” could also lighten the heart of any ten-year-old seeking an uplifting religious experience. [See the wonderful rendition of this song from Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ. ]

I suppose that none of this should be surprising when a religion celebrates events with names such as ” the murder of the holy innocents ,” “ the agony in the garden, ” the “ scourging at the pillar ,” and the “ crowning with thorns .”

Reminding Children of Their Own Mortality

For Catholics, the highest admiration has always been reserved for those individuals who died for their faith, and the more gruesome the death, the more attention and esteem they earn.

Very early in my elementary school years we were regaled by the story of St. Tarcisius, a child martyr who is now the patron saint of altar boys. (Yes, I actually was an altar boy.) An account of the death of St. Tarcisius from the web page of the Catholic television network EWTN follows:

Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

“T arcisius was a twelve-year-old acolyte during one of the fierce Roman persecutions of the third century, probably during that of Valerian. Each day, from a secret meeting place in the catacombs where Christians gathered for Mass, a deacon would be sent to the prisons to carry the Eucharist to those Christians condemned to die. At one point, there was no deacon to send and so St. Tarcisius, an acolyte, was sent carrying the “Holy Mysteries” to those in prison. On the way, he was stopped by boys his own age who were not Christians but knew him as a playmate and lover of games. He was asked to join their games, but this time he refused and the crowd of boys noticed that he was carrying something. Somehow, he was also recognized as a Christian, and the small gang of boys, anxious to view the Christian “Mysteries,” became a mob and turned upon Tarcisius with fury. He went down under the blows, and it is believed that a fellow Christian drove off the mob and rescued the young acolyte. The mangled body of Tarcisius was carried back to the catacombs, but the boy died on the way from his injuries. He was buried in the cemetery of St. Callistus, and his relics are claimed by the church of San Silvestro in Capite. In the fourth century, Pope St. Damasus wrote a poem about this “boy-martyr of the Eucharist” and says that, like another St. Stephen, he suffered a violent death at the hands of a mob rather than give up the Sacred Body to “raging dogs.” His story became well known when Cardinal Wiseman made it a part of his novel Fabiola, in which the story of the young acolyte is dramatized and a very moving account given of his martyrdom and death. Tarcisius, one of the patron saints of altar boys, has always been an example of youthful courage and devotion, and his story was one that was told again and again to urge others to a like heroism in suffering for their faith .”

I am still not exactly sure what the intent of repeatedly telling us this story was, although it was clearly meant to inspire us. However, the message that was received was that we should aspire to be like Tarcisius and that if we played our cards right we too could be beaten to death by an angry mob and then be admired by others.

Angela’s Ashes author Frank McCourt reflected on this peculiar tendency to make children reflect upon their own mortality when writing about his grim Catholic upbringing in Limerick, Ireland. According to McCourt, someone was always making him promise that he would die for something. His amiable but shiftless father would stumble home drunk after a night on the town, roust his young children out of bed, and make them promise that they would be willing to “ die for Ireland .” His schoolmasters regularly made him promise to " die for the faith if called upon ." In McCourt's own words (p. 113), " The master says it's a glorious thing to die for the Faith and Dad says it's a glorious thing to die for Ireland and I wonder if there's anyone in the world who would like us to live ." McCourt wryly wondered why it always had to be about “ dying for the faith ” and why no one ever asked him to “ go swimming for the faith ” or to “ eat candy for the faith .”

Staying on message, the nuns that taught me at Gate of Heaven School in Dallas, Pennsylvania, rarely missed an opportunity to remind us that " You know not the day nor the hour ," and every Ash Wednesday our parish priest would grind ashes into our foreheads while mumbling " Thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return ."

A suitable role model for adults is found in the personage of St. Blaise . Blaise was a physician in the early 6th century who is best remembered for having saved a young boy from choking to death on a fish bone. (Every year on the feast of St. Blaise (February 3rd) we would have our throats blessed by having our necks inserted between two large candles.) Anyway, right after healing the choking boy, Blaise was beaten, had his flesh ripped apart by iron combs designed to extract wool from sheep, and then beheaded as part of the local persecution of Christians. The conjunction of these two events were enough to enshrine him in our memories, and every February 3rd in the city of Dubrovnik his head, both of his hands, and a bit of his throat are paraded around town.

growing up catholic essay

In Portugal, there is a " chapel of bones " built by a Franciscan monk in the 16th century. It contains the bones of 5,000 monks, and the phrase ’ Melior est die mortis die nativitatis ’ (’ Better is the day of death than the day of birth ’) is written on its roof.

Body Parts on Parade

Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Perhaps the ultimate of macabre Catholic traditions is the preservation of the bodies and/or body parts of long-dead saints.

In my own hometown of Galesburg, Illinois, the body of a nine-year-old boy is preserved in a glass case inside one of the local Catholic churches. It looks like something that you might see in a spooky wax museum, and it sort of freaked my daughter out when she first saw it as a little girl.

It is the actual body of St. Crescent , who was martyred in Rome during the Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians during the third century. St. Crescent had been entombed in the Roman catacombs until 1838, when the body was exhumed and entrusted to the religious order (the Rosminians) that eventually founded the first Catholic parish in Galesburg. The body was shipped to Illinois in the hope that it would help the church attract new followers, much as the freak shows outside of circus tents were designed to turn bystanders into paying customers for the big show inside. Local legend has it that it is only the presence of St. Crescent in our city that protects Galesburg from tornadoes.

In the same vein (pardon the pun), the dried blood of St. Januarius is said to protect Naples, Italy, from volcanoes, earthquakes, and plagues.

And as evidenced by one of my own encounters with the body parts of a saint, these relics are most effective if you publicly flaunt them at least once a year. (e.g., See the aforementioned story of St. Blaise.)

In 2003 I was in Budapest with a small group of American academics. We were strolling around the streets taking in the sights when we came upon a procession of elaborately costumed people accompanied by musicians who sounded vaguely like a small town American junior high school marching band. There was a great deal of pomp and solemnity, and the focal point of the assemblage was a skeletal human right hand held aloft in a glass box.

By luck, we had stumbled upon the annual Holy Right Hand Procession in which the right hand of St. Stephen (the first Hungarian king and the patron saint of Hungary) is paraded around the city. I really did not think too much about this until my companions began talking about it. They found the whole affair to be grisly and more than a little bit creepy, and they were somewhat taken aback by my nonchalance.

This became the first time I had ever been put in the position of trying to explain the Catholic rationale for such practices, and I do not think that it went very well.

Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

A certain degree of gullibility from the masses is required to maintain these corporeal celebrations.

For example, my wife and I visited the Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges, Belgium, in the summer of 2013. The centerpiece of this magnificent church is a vial of blood allegedly drained from the body of Jesus Christ during the crucifixion. It was brought back to Europe by a guy returning from the crusades who claims to have received it as a reward for his great service in Jerusalem. I don’t know about you, but I would have at least required a certificate of authenticity like you get with autographed baseballs, but everyone seems to have just accepted his story as it was. Anyway, this vial of blood ( or is it . . .? ) became a big hit in the city and it too gets carted around town once a year during the annual Procession of the Holy Blood .

On non-procession days, one can view and worship the holy blood in the church under the watchful eye of a stern looking priest, following a donation to the basilica, of course. Background organ music adds to the sacred ambiance of the event, although the rendition of Elvis Presley’s “ Love Me Tender ” that we heard when we were there pushed the entire scene into the realm of the surreal.

In short, the world is apparently awash in the body parts of holy dead people, including the mummified head of St. Catherine of Siena, the tongue of St. Anthony of Padua, and the finger of St. Thomas the apostle. (Yes, the VERY finger that the doubting Thomas supposedly poked into the wounds of the risen Christ.)

My favorite among these has to be the “Holy Foreskin” which was passed around Europe until the 18th century: It was believed to be the foreskin of the young circumcised Jesus Christ himself.

Mother Cabrini, the first canonized American Saint, has spread herself fairly thin in the years since her death, In 1931, her body was exhumed as part of the canonization process. At that time, her head was removed and it is preserved in the chapel of the motherhouse of her order of nuns in Rome; her heart resides in the small Italian town where she founded her congregation. One of her arms is at the national shrine in Chicago, and most of the rest of her body is at a shrine in New York City..

All of this makes me wonder what we will be treated to next. Perhaps the penis of St. Dick or the breasts of St. Tittia?

A sign that an individual has truly secured the status of a holy person with a lock on future sainthood is to display “ stigmata ,” which are marks, sores, or even bleeding from the hands, wrists, and feet corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus. Such a person is known as a stigmatic or a stigmatist.

This phenomenon was parodied by actor Eric Idle in an otherwise forgettable movie called "Nuns on the Run ” in which Idle’s character is a crook who disguises himself as a nun to hide from the authorities in a convent. He introduces himself to the Mother Superior as “ Sister Euphemia of the Five Wounds . . . five wounds for short! ”

And Let's Not Forget the Crusades and the Inquisition

Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Allow me to return to the topic of the crusades for a moment.

I grew up believing that crusaders were courageous heroes who risked their lives to return the “Holy Lands” to Christian control, just as God would have wanted. My 4th grade Catholic school history book ( Before Our Nation Began , pp. 158-159) described the crusades and crusaders as follows:

“ The Pope [Urban II] asked the people of Western Europe to rescue the Holy Land from the Turks and to help the Eastern Empire. . . . Plans were made for a great war against the Moslem Turks. The war was called a Crusade from the Latin word which means “cross.” The soldiers who took part in the Crusade were called Crusaders. . . . Why did so many men wish to become Crusaders? Some probably longed for adventure. Some nobles saw a chance to gain new wealth. But a large number of people wished to go on the Crusades because they were good Catholics. They wished to serve God. The Pope had asked them to rescue the Holy Land, and they were answering the call of the Pope .”

The zeal of the crusaders coupled with their lack of squeamishness about blood and gore led to some real atrocities. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker , in his book entitled The Better Angels of Our Nature (pp.140-141), documented the creativity employed by the crusaders in pursuit of their goals :

“ Between 1095 and 1208 Crusader armies were mobilized to fight a “just war” to retake Jerusalem from the Muslim Turks, earning them remission from their sins and a ticket to heaven. They massacred Jewish communities on the way, and after besieging and sacking Nicea, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople, they slaughtered their Muslim and Jewish populations. [Political scientist R. J.] Rummel estimates the death toll at 1 million. The world had around 400 million people at the time, about a sixth of the number of the mid 20th century, so the death toll of the Crusader massacres as a proportion of the world’s population would today come out to about 6 million, equivalent to the Nazi’s genocide of the Jews .”

“ In the 13th century the Cathars of southern France embraced the Albigensian heresy, according to which there are two gods, one of good and one of evil. An infuriated papacy, in collusion with the king of France, sent waves of armies to the region, which killed around 200,000 of them. To give you a sense of the armies’ tactics, after capturing the city of Bram in 1210 they took a hundred of the defeated soldiers, cut off their noses and upper lips, gouged out the eyes of all but one, and had him lead the others to the city of Cabaret to terrorize its citizens into surrendering .”

Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Do not even get me started on the Inquisition, which killed more than 300,000 suspected infidels, heretics, Jews, witches, and undesirable characters in general (Rummel, 1997). Many of these killings occurred via the most painful of torturous deaths (such as being “broken on the wheel”) that are so fiendish and horrifying that even I choose not to go there.

This essay is not an indictment of Catholicism in particular; it just happens to be the religious tradition with which I am most familiar. There is certainly no shortage of ferocity and bloodshed in other religions (Islam, for example), but it is curious how those living within their personal theological fishbowls so clearly see the barbarism of other people’s practices while celebrating the holiness of their own.


Lynn, J. (1990). Nuns on the Run .

McCourt, F. (1996). Angela’s Ashes . New York: Scribner.

Pinker, S. (2011) T he Better Angels of Our Nature . New York: Viking.

Rummel, R. J. (1997). Statistics of Democide . Piscataway, NJ: Transaction.

Sharkey, D., Furlong, P. J., & Margaret, S. (1953). Before Our Nation Began . New York: W.H. Sadler, Inc.

Frank T. McAndrew Ph.D.

Frank McAndrew, Ph.D., is the Cornelia H. Dudley Professor of Psychology at Knox College.

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Writer's Blog by Susan A. Culver



I was born in 1951at the height of the Baby Boom, which followed WWII. Hence the name Baby Boomers. I was one of a pair (of fraternal twins) Baby B was born seven minutes after my sister, Karen. Catholic families often had many children due to the fact that the only form of birth control that was allowed by the Catholic Church was the” Rhythm Method. Not a particularly reliable birth control method.

growing up catholic essay

Susan Culver- high school graduation picture

We were a part of the ever-growing number of families in the working class. My father was the dispatcher for SEPTA the public bus company in Philadelphia. I grew up in a neighborhood of similar but not identical homes. We all had big backyards. We always had food on the table and clothes on our backs. I was the youngest so it was not uncommon for me to get the hand-me-downs. As did all the youngest in large families in our predominately Irish and Italian neighborhood in Maple Shade, NJ.

There was no “extra money.” However, since most of my friends were in the same boat, I did not consider it a big deal.

Being Catholic in a Catholic neighborhood also meant attending Catholic School. All other kids who didn’t go to Catholic school were called “The Publics.” And for some reason, we were told that this was a fate worse than death. If we misbehaved, we would be threatened with being sent to public school. Something akin to being sent to the third circle of hell.

The Classrooms were often too small for the large numbers of students occupying them. We often had to share books and desks. In first grade, I didn’t have my own desk right away and had to sit on a windowsill.

We were taught by nuns. Who considered themselves to be “brides of Christ.” In elementary school, I had St. Joseph nuns in high school I was taught by Franciscan nuns. The Saint Joseph nuns were a particularly strict order of sisters. They wore heavy woolen habits. Made from yards and yards of fabric. Their “habits” were fitted at the waist with voluminous skirts and a “belt’ that resembled a large rosary with a huge crucifix that hung down in the front. It clicked and clacked as they floated by seemingly without touching the ground. On their foreheads, they wore a “wimple” which was stiff as cardboard. And another piece that covered their chins. And a huge, white bib, that covered them from their necks to their chests, shoulder to shoulder.

I often wondered if they had hair underneath their veils. We were told never to touch the sisters for any reason. They were untouchable. I often wondered if they had ever been regular human beings or entirely another species. We were never brave enough or bold enough to question their words or their behaviors. No matter how unfair or unfathomable it seems to us.

Part of my Catholic School experience was wearing “uniforms.” The Our Lady of Perpetual Help uniform (OLPH) for girls was a maroon jumper with a white short-sleeved blouse, and saddle shoes, which were black and white. And a “beanie,” which was a maroon wool cap with a maroon wool-covered button on the top. Girls had to keep their heads covered at all times, especially in church. The boys wore dark pants, a white shirt, and a tie. The wool uniforms were itchy and uncomfortable especially as the weather became warmer. In the winter, girls were allowed to wear pants under their uniforms outside. But once inside, we had to take them off.

We were expected to stay neat and tidy at all times. My mother was kept busy washing and ironing our uniforms. The nuns kept order in the classrooms at all times. We were not allowed to talk back, or ask questions. Or heaven forbid chew gum in school. If anyone was caught with gum, they were forced to wear it stuck to the end of their nose for the rest of the day. If your behavior was out of line, you would sit in the corner. Your name would be added to a list on the blackboard. It was on there more than three times, you would be in for a world of trouble. And you warned it would go on your “permanent record.”  Which we were told would follow you around for the rest of your life. The final threat was you would be expelled and never heard from again. This would be the ultimate embarrassment for your family, of course. What would the neighbors think?  The sisters were not beyond using physical punishment, either. Rapping the knuckles with a metal-edged ruler, slapping, knocking the more rebellious boys down a short flight of steps. And name-calling, such as stupid, or lazy, was all too common a punishment.

There were some rewards in Catholic School too. You could become a hall monitor. Or you would be given a responsibility such as clapping the blackboard erasers. The greatest honor was being the child who crowned the Blessed Mother statue in the May procession.

On the first Friday of every month, we were all marched up to the church for Confession. There was a lot of pressure involved in going to Confession. Which was considered a Blessed Sacrament. Coming up with good sins to tell the priest, aside from the usual I got in a fight with my brother or sister, I lied. I was a quiet child and didn’t always have good “sins” to tell the priest. Sometimes, I felt compelled to “make up” more interesting transgressions. After Confession, we all had “pure souls.”

On Sunday mornings, we all went to the Children’s Mass at 9 am. During the Mass, if you were foolish enough to commit a transgression, the sisters would come up to the aisle where you were sitting and click a little metal clicker they had in their deep pockets.

My aisle often got into trouble because I always felt a compulsion to make all the girls in my aisle to start laughing. I would do this almost every Sunday without fail. Make a face or fart and cause a domino effect when my friend next to me would laugh, and then each girl next to them to giggle. The nuns would be clicking like crazy. We would be kept after school and punished by having to diagram sentences. Over fifty years later, I can still diagram a sentence.

In Catholic School, the curriculum was basic: reading, writing, arithmetic, history, spelling, science, spelling, English, and, more importantly religion. We had religion every day. In this class, we were given questions and we had to memorize the answer. If you weren’t good at memorizing your career in Catholic School was at risk. It turns out that I have an excellent memory. And I always received straight A’s in Religion and History and spelling. We’re not permitted to question these Religious beliefs. You were expected to believe on Faith. Anything less was considered a sacrilege.

Another important skill all good children needed to learn was the Palmer Method of Writing. We spent endless hours writing in blue books. We filled these books with strokes and ovals. It was tedious and a waste of time, and I was terrible at it since I was bored. We were using dip pens in bottles of ink. By the fifth grade, there were cartridge pens.

At that time there was a great deal of excitement about the Space Program. And a TV was brought into the classroom so we would all observe a space rocket being launched from Cape Canaveral. Not everyone had televisions back then. It was exciting to watch.

As far as sex education, in the eighth grade, we received a lecture. Of course, the boys and girls were in different rooms. The girls learned about menstruation. A very vague explanation was given and pictures of something (supposedly sperm) swimming towards a waiting ovum. No questions were allowed, and we were warned not to discuss this with the boys. One girl was assigned the important task of smuggling the little booklets out of the room under her jacket.

God knows what version of the truth the boys were told. I was still trying to figure out what a hickey was, let alone how someone got pregnant. No one bothered to tell me about the physical manifestations of menstruation, and I had three older sisters.

When it was time for my sister and me to attend high school,  we had to take entrance exams. We were both accepted into St. Mary of the Angels Academy and Holy Cross High School. My parents made the decision that we would attend Saint Mary of the Angel’s Academy because it was an all-girls high school.

I was a shy girl all through my high school years. St. Mary’s was located in Haddonfield, NJ. Which was a higher income area than Maple Shade, NJ, where I grew up. There were some benefits to attending an all-girl school. One was girls didn’t have to fight for attention because there were no boys. In grade school, the nuns always called on the boys. Girls were told it was a known scientific fact that we could not comprehend Math or Science. Many girls at St. Mary’s found out that they were quite intelligent. In fact that they could excel in both Science and Math. We also had a basketball team that competed with other girls’ teams throughout the state of NJ.

The Catholic School system taught me many things: reading, writing, math, history, and basic knowledge of Science, French, and a smattering of Latin. It also taught me self-control, discipline, and determination.

However, it took me years to overcome the lack of self-esteem and inhibitions that sometimes overwhelmed me. Catholic high school did protect us for four additional years from the harsh realities of life. But I don’t know if they did us any favors considering the turmoil of the seventies that awaited us.

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2 thoughts on “ GROWING UP CATHOLIC IN AMERICA IN THE 1950-1960’s ”

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This seems very on point to me. I am slightly younger then you but my experience was similar. I also remember thinking we’re they born like this? Did they have hair? Was the habit comfortable? Why were some so mean? This story gets you thinking! Thank you… I appreciate your insight!

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Great insight into Catholic School in grade school and high school in the ’50s and ’60s. The vision of the Nuns floating as they walked reminded me of the “Penguin” in the Blues Brother,s movie as she floated down the hall.

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Read high schoolers' contest-winning essays

Maia J. Kennedy

Maia J. Kennedy

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National Catholic Reporter asked high school juniors and seniors to reflect on their experiences of change and growth in the church and to describe their hopes for the church in the years ahead. After receiving and reviewing over 100 fantastic entries, we are proud to present the five winning entries -- first, second and third, as well as two honorable mentions.


Make the message succinct and direct, yet enticing and colorful

By Maia J. Kennedy

The poet T. S. Eliot once wrote, "For last year's words belong to last year's language/And next year's words await another voice." The Catholic church represents a long, profound history and it is my aim to act as "another voice" coming to bear witness of the good news to the modern world. 

As a junior in public high school who has attended Catholic schools all years prior, I have come to learn most recently that I am Catholic to the core. Jesus Christ is alive in me! My plans for bringing new faces, new voices, and new ways of being church are to follow the example of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, who is changing the Catholic state of mind and inspiring others to lead more prayerful and simple lives.

Poll after poll confirms that Francis is the most popular person in the world. His philosophical views have struck a nerve with the impoverished and young people of the world. As a new face and a new voice, Francis is leading the way toward a new Catholic character. He has a Twitter account and has been known to pose for "selfies"! His voice has reached me and my friends. 

His advice of living simply is a change in the church that deserves our attention. I have witnessed the concept firsthand through my family in Mexico who have few material possessions but who live a joyful and devout life. I admire their courage in the face of modern distractions. 

Today, I am exposed to greater diversity than ever before and I have begun to take community service to a different level. Where my community service before was organized through Catholic institutions, now I personally take the initiative and my efforts are encouraging others to do the same. 

In a world inundated by social media, a fresh voice of the Catholic church should be brief but effective. Long-winded dissertations on any topic will not gain traction with my generation. The message of the Trinity, forgiveness, and the holy Eucharist should be succinct and direct, yet enticing and colorful. 

Ideas provoking faith, hope and love cannot be concealed or drowned by rhetoric. Art, sports and music play significant roles in our human happiness and our sense of individuality — then why not in prayer that cleanses and strengthens our spirit? Might we address God through sportsmanship, song and visual expression? 

The church has undergone substantial change in my lifetime and I am grateful to be a small part of it. The church is a public body, a team of sorts, constantly in need of coaches who lead it to victory. 

I hope to be a new face, a new voice, proceeding by the grace of God in ways that appeal to and inspire the modern world to see Catholics as genuine stewards of Christ. Pope Francis' example of simple and personal stewardship will inspire us to achieve this victory and together, we can accomplish new ways of Christian life. 

[Maia J. Kennedy is a senior at Huntsville High School and active member of Holy Spirit Parish in Huntsville, Ala. She is a founding member of the Alabama Junior Arts Council and a Distinguished Young Woman award winner. Proud of her Mexican-American heritage, she holds a strong command of the Spanish language.]


By Mary Chudy

Being church is more than sitting in the same pew week after week next to the same family you’ve sat with for years. Being church is promoting and projecting your brotherly love for humanity to everyone you meet. It’s being hopeful in the face of despair. It’s ushering welcome to the marginalized. 

My experience of church has been one of growth and change. As a child, I came to church each week with a pretty dress and a toothy smile to match. I never really thought about why I was actually there till I began to receive the sacraments. Receiving my First Communion began my new understanding of the church: one of unbounded unity and love. 

Just as my faith life continues to change, I am hopeful in the church’s change. With such a short pontificate, Pope Francis has challenged the church’s views on touchy topics such as divorced and remarried Catholics and homosexuality. Change is rough, and it is natural for people to veer away. However, Catholics must not be afraid to turn the other cheek for the sake of justice, and must be open to welcome this change. 

I hope that Catholics everywhere will open their minds and hearts to welcome to those who may not be “born and bred” Catholic, or those who find themselves in difficult situations, so that we may truly be the universal church that God calls us to be. It is only then that we can welcome new faces and strong voices to create a more vibrant, diverse church, ultimately allowing us to be loving ambassadors of Christ’s mission.

During his papacy, Francis has also continually promoted and exemplified the value of living simply, in solidarity with the poor and marginalized. Americans today are geared towards materialism. We are always waiting for the next best thing. We line up like sardines on Black Friday, willing to fight each other to get the best sales. This materialistic mentality hinders the church from truly living its mission in the world: to love thy neighbor as thyself. 

I hope that the church will realize the importance of serving others through Francis’s example. Taking concrete action in our communities will work to draw new faces to the church. Through these actions, the church will become a more welcoming institution, catalyzing its growth.

Being Catholic to me means knowing that somewhere, there is someone who looks nothing like me and doesn’t speak my language celebrating and believing the same thing I do. This thought is beyond powerful. It unites Catholics all over the world. It automatically connects us to millions of people we will likely never meet. With this in mind therefore, I have hope that the church will recognize this union and open its arms to include those formerly forgotten and misjudged — including homosexuals and divorced and remarried Catholics — so that we may create a stronger, more vibrant church and together, live in the truth of our all-loving, all-just, universal God.


By André Sicard 

Since the election of Pope Francis to the papacy, I have seen an immense growth of renewed interest in the church and increasing pastoral change within the worldwide church. What the media once viewed as a dying institution is now seen for what it truly is: a living, breathing organism that is ever ancient, ever new. While it is true Francis has revitalized the universal church, in my own experience, at the local level, I have seen a church that has continued its mission of evangelization since day one and grows daily. 

In my diocese of Salt Lake City, we have founded new church communities, ordained large classes of permanent deacons, commissioned 85 lay ecclesial ministers, continued to ordain men to the priesthood, and have even started seeking input from the faithful for a new pastoral planning process for our future, all in the past five years. 

In my own parish, being a music minister has given me a first-hand view of the growth of my community and given me the chance to view liturgy as something more relevant to my life and to our mission. It is my hope we approach the future in a more pastoral way, looking to evangelize people more with our actions than with our words. 

By taking my responsibility as a member of the priesthood of the people of God seriously, I must go out “into the streets” and help everyone come closer to Christ. Within the church today, we often close the door on too many of our own brothers and sisters who may not fit the mold of what a Catholic should be like. If I am to reach out to new faces, I need to have an open heart and open mind. 

I have many friends who do not agree with my beliefs, yet I am learning to leave my personal ego behind and ask what they can offer me and the church. I cannot simply argue with or judge my friends when we do not agree; instead I must offer them a glimpse of the joy I receive weekly through the Sacraments and the Gospel. By leaving behind this pride, I dare to become a disciple to a church that does not force an ideology on someone, but instead, accompanies them on their journey and is willing to receive and love them for who they are. Before I can do this, I must be certain that the church is willing to keep its, “doors always wide open,” as Francis wrote in The Joy of the Gospel . 

For a person will only find their place within the Body of Christ if we, as church, offer them a loving, welcoming home. I take the responsibility to keep the door of that home open and unlocked, because, as Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “to enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime.” 


By Rogelio Becerra 

When I was younger, I was in a Catholic school, and I remember being in class, learning about religion. I would take everything in and accept it as a fact, but I don’t believe that this was the best way to learn about God. Once I entered De La Salle, I had religion teachers who encouraged me to question our religion and say that it is science and religion, not science or religion. 

I believe that since every person has their own moments of doubt, we should be encouraged to ask questions about religion and poke holes in the Bible because some things might be mystery, but other questions might have simple explanation. For example, I asked why does Jesus say to love your enemy but then goes off and breaks everything when he sees what is going on in the temple, in the house of God? My teacher answered me that he was also human, 100 percent divine and 100 percent human, and humans get mad and act upon their emotions. No matter what I wanted to ask, my teacher would answer comfortably. 

I personally hope that the church as a unit, should try to focus on things that need tending to right away and not argue with others about some detail that our society is making a big deal about. I believe that the church should focus on diversity, poverty, people, and what the people want and expect from the church. 

Other topics that people are focusing on, like gay marriage, will still be here if we put them aside and focus on real problems that are endangering lives. After having my junior retreat, I’ve realized how important our priorities are and I believe that our new pope, Pope Francis I, has his priorities straight because I believe he knows what we need to worry about right now and what we can worry about later. 

Ways we could also help the church reach new faces and hear new voices is reach out to the teenagers, high schools, and other places with young adults. I believe that the church should try to connect with teenagers because it is around this age that many lose their faith. Most Catholic high schools have religious figures like priests, brothers, and nuns, but what I think we need is religious figures that are higher ranked and more known because that’s what we react to. 

For example Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich attend a De La Salle basketball game on Jan. 16. This brought a lot of attention from the students because they got to meet him at a basketball game and not during a Mass, so it was something out of the ordinary that caught the attention of many students because this wouldn’t be the place to expect someone of his standards. 

By Omar Gomez

Growing up in a Latin household on the east side of Chicago, I would go to church every Sunday at 1 p.m. The Masses were always given in Spanish, and as a little boy I would never understand what they would ever say. Eventually I grew to understand what the message was in Mass and how I would take it definitely made an impact on how I grew up to perceive things as a young adult know. I feel like though that many people don’t get to experience what I do because not many people are able to connect with what happens in church. 

A way to attract new faces into church is if the church did more work in the communities themselves. Of course we see churches do outreach programs, but not many are able to reach the communities that they are present in. If we are able to reach these neighborhoods and they are able to give a face to the people who are scared to approach the church, they might be more inclined to approach the church. Many of these people who are too scared to come to the church, don’t because they feel like the church wouldn’t be to accepting. A way to combat this is to be able to give the church a “face” so more people feel welcomed to join the church. 

A vibrant church is also very important and a way to make it more vibrant is to be able to connect to the parishioners. If the priest is able to connect to his parishioners then perhaps more of them would understand where the message is coming from and how to be able to interpret the message itself. Not only does understanding the message important but also questioning it and perhaps this questioning could spark a great debate. Perhaps with these debates that could become more and more people would be more informed, and in turn become more intelligent, along with being able to freely think of issues pertaining to the church and many life issues. 

There is much that the church could do to make a huge impact, but it ultimately trickles all the way down to each individual church. That is where the change can begin to happen, at the level of the local churches that are making a huge impact in their own communities, because ultimately this leads to the change that it is wanted in each community. 

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Growing Up Catholic: An Infinitely Funny Guide for the Faithful, the Fallen, and Everyone In-Between

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Growing Up Catholic: An Infinitely Funny Guide for the Faithful, the Fallen, and Everyone In-Between Paperback – January 1, 1984

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  • Print length 144 pages
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  • Publication date January 1, 1984
  • ISBN-10 0385192401
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  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B000GGWC9K
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ DOUBLEDAY; Dolphin Books ed., 1st Edition. (January 1, 1984)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
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  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0385192401
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0385192408
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California Today

The Best California Books for Children

We’ve added six books for young readers to our growing list of titles that reflect life in the Golden State.

Soumya Karlamangla

By Soumya Karlamangla

Four book covers, for “By the Great Horn Spoon,” “Pasquala,” “Esperanza Rising" and “Island of the Blue Dolphins.”

Since we began our California book list last year, many readers have been asking that we highlight some wonderful books for children that reflect life in the Golden State. So that’s exactly what we’re doing today. I’ve added six children’s books to our growing California reading list , which is largely based on readers’ recommendations.

Among them is “One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams-Garcia (2010), a historical novel that was a finalist for the National Book Award. It tells the story of three sisters visiting their mother in Oakland in the momentous summer of 1968.

Also joining the list is “Front Desk” (2018), Kelly Yang’s debut novel, which won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature for children’s literature.

You can find the full list of novels and nonfiction here . The latest additions are shown in boldface.

If you’d like to suggest a book for the list, send an email to [email protected] . Please include your full name, the city where you live and a few sentences about why your choice should be included.

Here are the other four additions and what readers had to say about them, lightly edited:

“By the Great Horn Spoon” by Sid Fleischman (1963)

“I was introduced to this title when I was in third grade by a librarian who knew I enjoyed historical fiction. The book changed my life, confirming both my love for history and my desire to be a librarian when I grew up. I still enjoy historical fiction and I did indeed become a librarian!” — Jody Stefansson, Pasadena

“Pasquala” by Gail Faber and Michele Lasagna (1990)

“Pasquala is a young member of the Yokuts tribe in California’s Central Valley. Through a series of misfortunes, she and her family join Mission Santa Inés Catholic Church. Readers learn about the difficult choices Native Californians were forced to make and the tragic outcomes for many of them during this time in the state’s history.” — Joe Bolin, San José

“Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan (2000)

“It has won multiple awards, and while it is technically a children’s book, it takes on major themes such as classism and racism and puts them into an easily digestible format. The story begins in Mexico, whisks the reader through tragedy and lands the reader in Depression-era California. Immigrant field workers and their plight are as much a part of California as the sunny beaches and warm summer days are. It is a book well worth reading.” — Melanie Kathan, Ventura

“Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’Dell (1960)

“‘Island of the Blue Dolphins’ by Scott O’Dell really showcases the Channel Islands, and touches on the state’s Indigenous peoples. You may have read it as a kid. Many students in California read it in fourth grade (the grade that covers state history). This one feels personal, since I went to school at U.C. Santa Barbara (the Channel Islands, where the book is set, are across from the area around Santa Barbara). The book is based on a real Indigenous woman (often known as ‘the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island’) who is buried at the Santa Barbara Mission. My older son attends U.C.S.B. and is out on Santa Cruz Island right now doing salamander research.” — Amy Power Labson, Sacramento

The rest of the news

Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 conviction in New York was overturned Thursday, but his criminal convictions in California still stand .

California lawmakers are considering a bill that would give the extended families of domestic violence victims the right to request additional scrutiny of death investigations , CalMatters reports.

At least 16 people died in California between 2012 and 2021 after they were injected with a powerful sedative by medical personnel following a physical encounter with police officers, The Associated Press reported .

Southern California

U.S.C. has canceled its main stage commencement event because of security concerns, university officials said. The 144-year-old Los Angeles institution has not had a reputation for campus activism, but it now finds itself embroiled in controversies over the war in Gaza.

U.S. senators demanded an accounting of the rapid closure of a troubled federal women’s prison in Dublin, where sexual abuse by guards was rampant. The senators said there were reports that prisoners were mistreated, neglected or abused while being transferred to other facilities, The Associated Press reports.

Central California

Residents of Fresno’s Chinatown neighborhood are worried that a high-speed rail line will be a catalyst for gentrification rather than a benefit to the local economy, KQED reports.

Northern California

Parking control officers in San Francisco picketed against a plan for “intensive” parking enforcement sweeps, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. The officers say the move comes at a time when they are facing an increase in threats from drivers.

And before you go, some good news

California will open a new state park in the San Joaquin Valley in June, officials announced . The park, eight miles west of Modesto, hasn’t been given a formal name yet; for now it is known as the Dos Rios property, and covers about 1,600 acres of floodplain.

Dos Rios will allow visitors to hike in certain areas of the property, and will also offer biking trails and river access for swimmers. The official name and park classification of Dos Rios will be determined soon by the California State Park and Recreation Commission.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back on Monday. Enjoy your weekend.— Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword .

Halina Bennet and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox .

Soumya Karlamangla reports on California news and culture and is based in San Francisco. She writes the California Today newsletter. More about Soumya Karlamangla


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