Editor’s Note: The Cardinal Newman Society recently announced Trinity Chester, a homeschooled student in California, as the winner of the Society’s fifth annual Essay Scholarship Contest for Catholic college-bound students. Chester will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward her education at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California, this fall. Below is the full text of Chester’s winning essay. More information about the Contest can be obtained here, and students who want to be eligible for next year’s Contest can sign up for Recruit Me here.
“Jesus, I trust in You.” I have whispered this prayer countless times throughout the past months. Amidst overturned plans, isolation, uncertainty, and limited access to the Sacraments, a simple act of trust in the Lord often feels nearly impossible. Even before the pandemic began, I knew that I wanted to attend a Catholic college, but the challenges of the past year have left me with the conviction that I could not possibly settle for anything less. I have various reasons for choosing to spend the next four years of my life in an academic community steeped in the rich and beautiful traditions of our faith, but they all boil down to one essential point: Christ is truly present there. And only in Christ’s presence can real peace, joy, and fulfillment be found.
Christ is at the heart of Catholic learning communities around the world. The most important building on a faithful Catholic campus is its chapel, where the Blessed Sacrament is housed. These beautiful churches are the epicenters of campus life, and from them Christ’s presence infuses colleges with a sense of peace and purpose. An education that seeks knowledge of the true, the good, and the beautiful must by definition bring us closer to Christ, who is Truth, Goodness, and Beauty incarnate. The genuine camaraderie found at Catholic colleges arises when people live and work in community with a common purpose—to know, love, and serve the Lord—and it cannot exist without Christ as its foundation.
The events of the past year have taught us that our broken world desperately needs young people with a love for the Lord and a missionary spirit, who will dedicate their lives to service and evangelization. Faithful Catholic colleges equip their students to be missionaries for the faith by carrying Christ with them into the world after graduation. Students joyfully and generously answer God’s call in their lives, whether to the single life, marriage, the priesthood, or religious life. Catholic colleges affirm the universal call to holiness, equipping students with the means to be Christ’s hands and feet and to glorify Him in their work.
With the inevitable effects of the pandemic on the economy, it might seem crazy to pursue a degree in the Liberal Arts. In a post-COVID economy, however, graduates will need a holistic education that will equip them for life and give them a versatile skillset. Catholic colleges, with their strong focus on the Liberal Arts, give students the knowledge, critical thinking skills, and flexibility to succeed in any venture. My personal dream is to be a writer: to inspire, uplift, communicate truth, and bring beauty into the world with my words. In order to do this, I must first learn to recognize truth and appreciate beauty. A Liberal Arts degree will acquaint me with the full width and breadth of human thought, from philosophy to the natural sciences, from history to literature, and give me the tools I need to succeed in life.
As schools across the country have shut down or taken classes completely online, faithful Catholic colleges have gone above and beyond to minister to their students in these trying times and keep classes in-person, if at all possible. These schools are truly almae matres—nourishing mothers who care for their children’s physical, emotional, and spiritual welfare. At a Catholic college, I can be confident that administrators, faculty, staff, and my fellow students will have my best interests at heart. “For,” as Christ says in St. Matthew’s Gospel, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” From faithful Catholic colleges will come
the next generation of saints for our times.