Stepping Stones

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By Madelaine C., freshman

I remember the first time I stepped foot in the Newman Center. It was my senior year of high school, and we were visiting for a retreat. I remember quickly walking around the building, and not really paying attention to where I was going. That was a recurring theme for me back then: not paying attention.

I liked the time I spent there, but I never felt like I could fit in to a place like that. The college students there scared me because they seemed so devoted to their faith and I feared I couldn’t relate to them. We left that retreat that day, and I didn’t think about it much after that.

It took me a long time to even think about where to go to college. I was so unsure of my future that it gave me anxiety to ponder it. Graduating high school forced me to decide, and I remember the only reason I chose to come to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln was because my sister went there. That’s it. I didn't even go on a single college visit. While that is not the smartest advice in planning for the future, the fact that I blindly chose UNL was my saving grace.

“…the fact that I blindly chose UNL was my saving grace.”

I don’t want to get ahead of myself though. My first semester of college was still rough. I had to pay for my education myself and I did not get as much financial aid as I needed. I had to skip out on living in the dorms, which was also basically skipping out on a college social life.  

We learned at Catholic high school, that coming into college we emerging adults had primarily two choices: be hyperactive in your religion or ditch it all together. Neither of those sounded great to me. I was strong in what I believed in but I didn’t understand why or have a drive to know more. In fact, my first two weeks here, I avoided stepping into the Newman Center at all costs. My heart and mind were being pulled in so many ways that they all canceled each other out, and I felt nothing. I could sum up the beginning of my first semester in one word: confused.  

But honey, I had a big storm coming. 

A few weeks later, I finally stepped foot into the building. Granted, it was to use the restroom, but I was there! Eventually, I would walk in and sit on the couches. That progressed into kind of reading the pamphlets in the lobby, and then days later, I visited the Marian chapel for a five minute adoration. Five minutes!  

This progression was nice, but part of me still felt like I didn’t belong. I felt as if I wasn’t holy enough to be there. Everyone there already knew each other and I was alone. It was as if everyone I met had their own group of friends, and couldn’t make room to care about me. I felt alone for a long time, but as most of us know, the Lord answers prayers. The next big step that the Lord made in my life was joining a Bible study. It was the most random sequence of events that led up to it, but through this study, I finally started feeling a sense of community.

“The next big step that the Lord made in my life was joining a Bible study.”

Through this study I began to open up and actually feel God start to transform me. It started with me trying to answer questions with my “Catholic School” knowledge, but it somehow always led to vulnerable admittances and conversations with this group of women, who I didn’t even really know. Through this study, I was encouraged to pray more frequently and go to Mass more often. I learned how the Father loves me and how I don’t have to prove myself to Him. Bible study changed my life.

I also opened my eyes to the reality of the bigger Newman Center community. I learned firsthand how the people here, though sometimes intimidating, are the nicest people on the planet. They were always welcoming; it was I that had my doors closed and locked. The reason I was lonely wasn’t on the other people that “didn’t let me in,” it was on me. I did not make myself vulnerable to new friendships. I can’t stress enough that in coming to the Newman Center, God laid out all of the opportunities I would need. It was I that refused to see them.

“…it was I that had my doors closed and locked.”

Since then, I have made wonderful friends and have really taken advantage of what the Newman Center has to offer. Thinking back, I can relate my time so far in college to a person trying to cross a river. It could be so easy to fall in and float with the mainstream, but we were not made for comfort. The Lord has set out stepping stones for all of us to cross. The Newman Center has become one of the biggest stones laid out in my path. Though I know I am bound to slip and fall in sometimes, I am confident that I can always find my footing here. The journey across the river into a deeper relationship with God is difficult but always fruitful. We just need to take a chance on God and take that first leap.

 “The Newman Center has become one of the biggest stones laid out in my path.”