Friendship and fellowship in university can change your life, writes Sandra Parda
My name is Sandra Parda, I’m the auditor of the Life Society and in my final year of studies in NUI Galway. In February I converted back into Catholicism and received so many graces along the way. It’s been truly an incredible journey.
Seven years ago, after my brother died, I was left with a shattered heart and lost my Faith in God. Throughout the years, I was searching for the meaning of life, not only trying to deal with the grief that was so heavy on my heart but also trying to dull the loneliness and emptiness that I was left with upon losing my Faith. Now, I have realised that I was trying to fill the void and that aching of my heart which only God can heal.
I had a very beautiful conversion upon my arrival in America, where I went to study for a semester. It was clear that God had a very distinctive plan for me as I was sent to a Catholic University- Carroll College in the state of Montana, where the faith of the people was very strong and was flourishing on a daily basis.
Upon my conversion I was flooded with so many graces over the months and grew massively in my faith in America. I took the plunge and began praying the Rosary every day, going to daily Mass and within each day that has passed, I was blooming in my Faith journey. I was blessed to make friends with the most incredible people who were strongly rooted in their Faith and lifted me up each day that I spent there. They not only brought me closer to God but were able to answer any of my questions and concerns related to the ultimate truth and explanation of the Church and her teachings.
When it was time for me to leave America and go back to Ireland for my final year of college. I was devastated, scared and I felt alone. I didn’t want to experience once more the godless and leftist agenda that dominates college grounds and be without a strong, Catholic community and people who would support me upon my faith journey.
But of course, my return has been quite the opposite of what I have thought it would be. I’m in my fourth and final year of college and I had no idea what beautiful friends and community I could make here in NUI Galway. I was greeted with open arms and understanding. Each of the people that I have met and shared my story with have rejoiced upon my conversion and welcomed me back home- back to my Faith.
I became a part of an amazing community where I can continue to grow in my faith on daily basis, with people who understand, listen and are rooted strongly in their Faith. I can see the Catholic society here in NUI Galway flourishing with every event, nourishing each of our souls, bringing us closer to God.
We have been so blessed to eat, cook and share a meal together each Wednesday and afterwards attend a Youth 2000 prayer meeting which is lead with beautiful music, prayers and adoration. Wednesday evenings are the moments where time stops, and we become a supportive community to one another with God being at the centre of our friendships.
We are filled with graces during philosophy talks with one of the very charismatic priests, Fr Brendan Kilkoyne. His extensive knowledge seems to be limitless, strongly appealing to the youth with more people coming in with every talk. The talks broaden our knowledge on God and the Church, sparking up beautiful debates and conversations.
We also have ‘YouCat’ meetings every week (personally, my favourite), where we learn about the catechism and deepen our knowledge. They have made a massive impact on my understanding but also made me fall in love with my Faith and realising the true goodness and beauty of it.
The events organised by the Catholic Society not only aspire to broaden our knowledge but also encourage very fruitful debates. Being able to freely express yourself has been truly liberating. I do not feel I have to be on guard with my political views and it’s a place where I can extend my knowledge and ask questions without judgement. Those events bring us closer to God and deepen our Faith within a very caring, supportive and understanding community.
The classes organised by the Catholic society and the community that it created grows each week, have been an incredible blessing in my life. On a campus that has been so heavily indoctrinated and where we cannot even hang pro-life posters without the fear of them being torn down, I truly feel that this community has given me the strength and the courage to walk and pray with a Rosary in my hand on college campus, every day. Even though the times in Ireland seem to be dark, the genuine love for God in young people’s hearts has given me hope and with Our Lord by our side, nothing seems impossible.