Dear Bishop Garcia,
I have grown up as a Roman Catholic. I was baptized as a baby and received First Communion and did First Reconciliation in second grade. I go to church weekly and have participated as an altar server, lector, and usher. I also have gone to a Catholic school for thirteen years. Because of my schooling and religious parents, my knowledge of the Catholic Church is pretty vast. The majority of my relatives are Catholic, and my friends from childhood were also primarily Catholic. Filipinos and Mexicans are traditionally Catholic, so at my Catholic School in Salinas, Madonna del Sasso, and as a part of a Filipino family, it was the norm for people to be Catholic and less common to be protestant or unreligious.
Being raised in an environment primarily made up of Catholics, and growing up learning almost all there is to know about Catholicism and scripture, I have strong roots in my religion.
Beginning in my teenage years, however, I began questioning my faith. This is the common time for kids to reassess values and beliefs, in attempts to differentiate what we believe from what we have been told to believe by our parents. I started going through this process in middle school, when I started to feel distanced from God. I realized I had stopped praying to Him as often as I used to when I was a child. It had been a while since my nightly prayers with my parents before going to bed. I would only pray sporadically when I wanted something from God, rather than just talking to Him or praising Him.
For a while I tried to resolve my faith issues, and at one point during my freshman year I decided I wanted to be known as the girl in my class who had the closest relationship to God and her faith. Although Catalina is a Catholic school, fewer of my peers here are Catholic than were at my elementary school. Perhaps as result of that, I felt closer to God when I was ahead of my classmates in Scripture class, since I already knew the ins and outs of the Bible and Catholic traditions. However, again after my freshman year,
I realized I wasn’t actually closer to God; I only knew Catholic traditions and what to do in mass better than others who do not have the same background as mine.
Again, I struggled with my faith and felt lost from God, especially as I learned about the scandals the Catholic Church has been through in history classes and through media outlets.
I knew my school offers Confirmation every two years, and I knew my parents wanted me to get confirmed, but because of my growing weariness from my religion, I had been waiting to tell my parents I did not want to get confirmed. However, my parents were not backing down. While they will occasionally let me skip Sunday mass when I’ve been overworked from school or extracurricular activities, they were not going to let me go unconfirmed. I joined the Confirmation classes grudgingly, along with my other classmates.
However, my reluctance was misplaced; Confirmation has strengthened my faith and has been a wonderful experience I am forever grateful I went through. Mr. Riley, our advisor, relayed to the others and me early during the process–in response to my concerns about my struggle with my faith–that
“faith is a personal, ongoing process.” This simple statement opened my heart to a willingness to work for my relationship with God.
By giving my faith back to me and making it less about the Catholic Church as an institution, I have been able to pray for myself and do things at my own pace. With my long commute to school, forty-five minutes each way, I take some time while I drive to thank God for ten things and ask God for his blessing for ten other things or people. Additionally, during these past few months, Confirmation has been my weekly moment when I get to gather with my friends and just get to be in their presence. Some of my best friends are going through Confirmation with me, and it is such a joy to go out to dinner before Confirmation meetings or stay late afterwards talking with them. Confirmation has confirmed my faith within me, and it has given me precious time to spend with my best friends. Although it was hard sometimes to stay late on a school night, having this repetitive carved-out time to reflect and talk has been a much-needed experience during my very busy schedule. I’m forever thankful for this opportunity and look forward to completing this process on Saturday.