August, 2016

Comings and Goings
Summers are often the time for transitions, people moving from one place to another or changing jobs or choosing new directions. That is happening in our office as well. Gabriela Garcia has been with PEP for the past academic year and will move to Kansas at the end of this month. Two stories follow, one from Gaby, who has been a wonderful co-worker, and will be missed. Another from a young adult with a similar experience.

Gabriela Garcia
I grew up Catholic my entire life and not just Easter and Christmas Catholic but devout church-goers every Sunday and sometimes everyday. I went to Catholic school and attended religious education, was an altar server, attended parish socials, was involved in ministries and activities. We knew all the priests and deacons, and everyone knew who we were because the church was our second home. I got to the point where I had the entire Mass memorized, even the priests’ part; it was just too routine for me. I’ve heard all the readings many, many times. No matter who was doing the homily, the message was always the same: “In today’s reading (insert meaningful story reflection here) . . . so what (insert author’s name here) is really telling us is to be good, love your neighbor, do not kill, etc., etc., etc.” Okay, great, thank you, what a good reminder to be a nice person this week. I do believe that we can all use that reminder every once in a while, but getting the message engraved in your mind for 18+ years almost brainwashes you to think that if you do not follow exactly what is said you are going to go to hell. So I stopped going. Why? Because I was not learning anything new. I got bored and needed a break.

But we all yearn to believe in something, whether it is God, Allah, Brahman, a Spirit, the Universe. Believing is what keeps us going. Knowing that we are here for a reason, whatever the reason, and that we are not alone creates a calming feeling. We are indeed all one family, a family of human beings, so why not “love your neighbor like you love yourself?” I do not believe that we need to label everything or that we need a daily ritual. I do not believe that I am going to hell because I do not participate in Mass or other ministries. I do believe that love is the only religion we should be following. Yes, we do need guidance with what it truly means to love and be loved, and for many people, being Catholic is just that. But it is not currently for me. The object is not trying to get people back to the Church. It is about showing the love and goodness of others as human beings.

The Experience of Another Young Adult
My mother and grandma raised me in a traditional Mexican-American household where religion, prayer and believing in the Catholic organization was necessary. It was something we, as a culture, belonged to – simple as that. I attended Catholic schools from first grade to the end of high school. Now, as a young adult, I am still a baptized, confirmed Catholic but not an active member of a Catholic community. There is just no time left in my hectic life to attend church. Also, when my religion determines what I can or cannot do with my life and with my body is where I start to question where I belong. How can I be a devoted Catholic if I do not believe in the basic fundamentals of the faith? Catholicism is not presented as a “pick and choose” religion in that I can pick and choose what I want or don’t want to believe in. So I let it go. Besides, my experiences attending Mass were always a little bland and lifeless. I never had an “aha” moment during a homily which I couldn’t also receive from personal reflection or a self-improvement book. Mass was a nice reminder to be a good human being, but is that enough for me? Not at this moment, and it is uncertain what the future may bring.

The next Newsletter will speak to these experiences from a faith perspective and a different view of Church.

Maria Gabriela Garcia, Debora Elkins, Tom Sweetser, SJ