How to Foster Your Relationship with Christ at a Secular College

growing closer to christ at college

Growing up, I had an incredible community of Catholic friends. I was never challenged or persecuted for my beliefs. I was able to build a strong foundation for my faith to grow.

As I embarked on the college application process, I desired to be challenged in college and sought out ways to surround myself with people who saw the world differently than I did. More than anything, I wanted to know why I believed the teachings of the Catholic Church. And what better way to do that then be in an environment that challenged my beliefs and forced me to understand why I live out my Catholic Faith?

Being Catholic in College

And that is exactly what I did. Now, I love college. I am taking interesting classes, have an inspiring and empowering group of female friends, and am living in one of my favorite places in the world. But when I asked God to put me in an environment that challenged me, He answered my prayer in a direct way. He pushed me more than I ever thought possible. The college that I chose to attend is frequently cited as one of the most liberal, least religious colleges in the United States. But here I am, two years later, and I would not do it any differently.

The past 2 years have been filled with the highest of highs but also the lowest of lows. This past semester I struggled with identity. I entered a period of almost constant spiritual unrest. I was striving to live my life to please God and follow His teachings. Yet there were challenges at every turn. It seemed like everything around me was trying to knock me down. I felt alone and sacred. I was unsure of where my life was going.

Thankfully, I did not back down from the challenge God placed in front of me. Because of the environment I was in, I was forced to delve deeper into my Faith, ask questions, and do a lot of praying. I am now on fire for my Faith. I feel more connected to the Catholic Church than ever before.

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How to Foster Relationship with Christ at a Secular College

Recently I was asked how I maintained my faith when it seemed like everything around me was telling me not to? How do I keep my faith alive at a secular college? Here are some ways that I have found to be helpful:

Find a Catholic Community at Your School

Not all of my best friends in college are Catholic. However, finding a community that understands and fosters your Faith is critical. Most colleges and universities have either a Catholic center or club. Find them!

Before entering college, I went online and found the contact information for the Catholic group at my school. I made sure I was at the organization fair during orientation week and introduced myself. Meeting with my Catholic community on a weekly basis for the last two years has been a saving grace. Being able to come together in fellowship with people your age often experiencing similar trials and tribulations is so powerful.

Finding consistency in college can be difficult. Classes, friends, and physical living spaces are always changing. Meeting with my Catholic friends every week was and still is a great source of comfort and makes college feel more like a home!

Be Open to Having Conversations

Regardless of where you go in life, you are going to meet people who are different than you. That is part of what makes life exciting!

Meeting people from a variety of backgrounds can open up your mind to a world of new ideas and perspectives. And it is wholly possible to disagree but still have a productive conversation about your beliefs and differences. Too often, disagreements turn into arguments. This eliminates the possibility of growth. Disagreements force you to really think about why you believe what you believe and seek out information that you may not have for the sake of educating another. In turn, you are also educating yourself.

The more you share your story, the more you are sharing the light of Christ with others.

Don’t be Afraid to Make Non-Catholic Friends

Oftentimes we are attracted to people who share similar qualities, values, traits, or interests as we do. But, it is hard to find people who share every belief that you do, especially on a college campus. So don’t be afraid to make interfaith friendships. They will require more work. All parties involved will have to do a fair amount of listening and learning about the other person. But the friendships can be fruitful and rewarding in different ways than your Catholic friends.

What could be better than telling others about your relationship with Jesus?

What I have found is that it all comes down to loving your neighbors. Loving others as God loves us is an incredible way of sharing the beauty of the Catholic church to those who are not Catholic.

Stay True to You

It’s ok to say no. It’s ok to say no to the party, the drink, the outfit, or anything else that makes you feel like you are taking a step away from God. By saying no to these things you giving a big YES to God.

When I first entered college, I was terrified that my new friends would stop liking me once they found out about my Faith and how I was living my life. They asked questions out of a genuine curiosity and I answered truthfully. Nobody treated me any differently or pressured me into doing anything I was not comfortable with. They treated me like they always had. And that is how I knew they were my true friends who loved me for me. Now, I am fortunate. Not all people react to how my friends reacted.

Being “you” might not always align with what the majority is doing. There are times when keeping your relationship with God as a priority may seem like it is not worth it. But it is. And the reward is so much greater than college popularity or “fitting in” with the crowd.

There is No Shame in Asking for Help

College is an environment where you can be surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of people and yet feel completely alone. The good news is you are never alone, God is always with you!

However, at times it might be hard to see that. Seek outside or professional help if you feel like you cannot get through whatever season of life you are in on your own. Contact your church office, seek counsel from a trusted priest, or ask your Catholic campus advisor for further resources.

Do/did you attend a secular college? What advice do you have for growing your relationship with Christ and His Church during that time?

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Caroline King is a junior at Emerson College in Boston, MA studying Communications and Political Science. She was raised in Texas and is a southern girl at heart. She loves watching the news, spending way too much money at Sephora, and drinking coffee. You can read more about her here.

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