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Even though I have already completed two weeks of remote classes, I still cannot believe I am a junior at Loyola University Maryland. Given my introverted nature, I was nervous about making friends in freshman year. I am grateful to have found a core group of friends early on that have always been there for me.
 
Although we met in different ways, something that connects us is a faith foundation. For instance, I reconnected with a high school classmate and became friends with her and her roommate by attending weekly Mass with themr. Meanwhile, I enjoy supporting my sophomore roommate and other friends who sing in chapel choir.
 
I got to know these friends even more when I joined their Campus Ministry Koinonia group and was welcomed by each member. Koinonia, which means “fellowship” in Greek, is a faith-sharing and reflection program. Since freshman year, we’ve all been involved in Campus Ministry in various forms as student interns, retreat leaders, liturgical ministers, and more.
 
I recently reunited with friends at Loyola after months of being apart. Until I saw them in person once again, I did not realize how much I had missed my friends! After a relaxing weekend with my sophomore roommates in August, I recently spent a week in Sea Isle City with those I planned to live with this semester. While we were at the beach, we had the chance to watch livestream Mass at which our friend was a lector.
 
Between hiking and roasting s’mores and then having September beach days, I feel incredibly blessed for these memories. Although 2020 has not been an ideal year for anyone, my friends remind me to live to the fullest.
 
I have witnessed the power of faith through my parents’ friendships with connections from childhood and Catholic school communities. I have always admired how they all look out for each other in joyful and trying times through prayer, thoughtful gestures, and meaningful conversations. I hope to emulate their compassion and loyalty in my own relationships.
 
What I love most about my friends is their demonstration of Christian values whether it be through engaging with the Baltimore community or reminding me to believe in myself. They allow me to be my authentic self: someone who overdresses for every occasion, lacks cooking skills, and takes endless sunset photos.
 
Even states away, my friends and I take time to reach out and discuss Taylor Swift’s “Folklore,” send good luck texts during finals, or recommend books and televisions shows. I’m so lucky to have found the gift of spirituality in friendship from my Loyola experience.
 
Photo: A view of Alumni Chapel at Loyola University Maryland.
 
Samantha Howath, who has been an intern at RENEW, is an occasional contributor to the RENEW blog.

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When my parents and I picked up my belongings from my spring semester at Loyola University in Maryland, I could not help but notice the emptiness around campus. While I returned my key and walked across the quiet bridge, I recalled the liveliness of the campus when we all had returned from spring break in March.
 
Although I could not visit the bookstore or say hello to the dining hall staff, I asked my parents if I could stop by the quad, the center of Loyola’s Evergreen campus. My favorite spot on campus, I have many fond memories on the quad: eating lunch with friends on the Humanities building porch, leading campus tours, spring concerts, and the activities fair. As I took a moment to take it all in, the statue of St. Ignatius Loyola stood out to me. It reminded me of the passion for community that the early Jesuits created, inspired by Jesus and his disciples. I’ll always remember learning about care for the whole person, one of Loyola’s core values, at my orientation. Like the Jesuits, Loyola encourages every individual to grow in mind, body, and spirit. A rising junior, I still feel the power of community through the relationships that I have made with friends, professors, fellow campus ministry interns, and peers.
 
Even though the spring semester did not finish the way I expected, the Loyola community remained strong despite physical distance. Both students and staff came together in creative ways: virtual meetings with the career center, campus ministry gatherings on Zoom, livestream masses, and Facetimes with friends. I was especially touched by the tributes and virtual send-offs for the 2020 graduates. I was happy for them that the university recognized all their hard work and accomplishments. Despite disappointments, through the pandemic we have learned to adapt and to not take for granted the gift of human connection.
 
Without a doubt, campus life will be different in the fall through virtual classes, dining hall restrictions, event cancellations, and inability to travel from campus until Thanksgiving. But I am so thankful that I will safely return to my “home away from home” in August. I got to say goodbye to my friends in March knowing that I have two years left at Loyola. I know that I will come back to campus with a deeper appreciation for my family, friends, and the wonderful community that helps me find God in everyday situations.
 
Samantha Howath, a summer intern at RENEW International, is a rising junior at Loyola University Maryland where she studies Communications and Marketing. She is a lector for Campus Ministry. Samantha is also a marketer for Loyola’s chapter of Spoon University, a food blog, and a Greyhound Ambassador for Admissions.

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Ave Crux, Spes Unica. For the past seven years, I have attended educational institutions sponsored by the Congregation of Holy Cross. The congregation’s motto, Ave Crux, Spes Unica, has been ingrained in my brain, but lately it has taken on a special meaning in my life. It translates as “Hail the cross, our only hope.”
 
I know parishes and dioceses across the United States are struggling with how to serve their communities, particularly young adults, during this difficult time. Many are trying to use Zoom calls or YouTube videos as a way to minister to their young adults, and these means are often successful with strong turnouts of participants from their homes. People are hungry for connection and community, even on a screen.
 
I was on a video call with a retreat group earlier this week, and we were sharing our experiences. Many of these fellow college students had gone home and were adjusting to living with parents and siblings again. About half an hour in, we realized we had nothing else to share; life seemed too slow with no exciting news. Yet, we stayed on the call. We stayed on the call for an extra hour, because looking at each other made us feel a little closer and a little more connected. We talked about how we missed being able to hug each other and see each other’s faces around campus.
 
My friend Robbie who will be graduating online in two weeks, brought tears to my eyes when he said, “I would do anything for one more campus ministry retreat.” I understand what Robbie meant; I too have been dreaming about one more opportunity to sit together, physically. I miss the times we could comfort each other, play volleyball, take a hike, pray and eat together. My fellow students and I mourned the fact that, for the foreseeable future we would have to share from afar.
 
Jesus taught me long ago that no cross, no burden, is too big or too small to bring to him. There is universal suffering right now. Some people are mourning the loss of loved ones; others are mourning the fact that they won’t walk across a stage and celebrate graduation with friends and families. We all are carrying crosses and burdens, let us recall how liberating and salvific Jesus’ cross is for us. Let us not forget to hope. I am spending my days reminding my heart, Spes Unica, Spes Unica – Only Hope.
 
Join Jessie and other Catholic young adults for an online faith-sharing series breaking open Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, Creation at the Crossroads.
 
Jessica Guerriero is the RENEW Theology on Tap Coordinator and is a student majoring in Catholic Studies at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.

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StudentMassI have eleven grandchildren ranging from ages 24 to 10. Among these are twin grandsons, age 21, very handsome and quite nice. I am blessed that all of my grandchildren love and revere their faith.
 
On a spring break visit, I asked Brendan, one of the twins, if there were many Catholic young ladies at his college. You see, I have viewed endless postings of him at various functions with pretty young ladies on his arm. Brendan replied that he thought about 40 percent were probably Catholic, and he added that the percentage isn’t much more at Notre Dame, a Catholic university. I then asked if the girls he dated were Catholic. He sort of laughed and said, “Not like you and I are, Teetee.”
 
Being ROTC students, Brendan and his brother are models of “physical fitness” and work out constantly at the gym. At a couple of his Saturday night fraternity events the young lady he had escorted asked if she could accompany him to the gym the following Sunday morning and what time he would be going. His reply would always be, “I don’t know what Mass I’ll be attending, so I cannot give you a set time.” Her surprised retort was, “You go to Mass?” He’d then asked, “Are you not Catholic?” She’d awkwardly reply, “Why yes I am, but I cannot remember the last time I went to Mass.” When Brendan told me about these conversations, I asked why he hadn’t responded, “That’s sad; you don’t know what you’re missing.” He just laughed and said, “Guys just don’t talk like that, Grandma.”
 
A couple of weeks later I received a text from Brendan asking me to call that evening. He related a new incident almost exactly like the previous one. When the young lady inquired about going to the gym with him on Sunday morning, and found out he first attended Mass, she reacted the same way as the previous young lady and said she had not been to Mass for years even though she and her family were Catholic. This time Brendan responded, “Gee, that’s really sad.” End result, she attended Mass with him and has been going each Sunday since. He said sometimes they even go during the week if they are having a big test.
 
I cannot tell you how happy and proud this grandma is, and I hope Brendan will continue his missionary discipleship, being a new evangelizer in a way that he feels comfortable with and that is consistent with who he is and what he believes. Now I have to work on his brother.
 
Maria Martine is a member of the Rosary Society at Our Lady of Peace, New Providence, N.J.

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Campus RENEW is a faith-sharing process which has been enthusiastically welcomed on college and university campuses. It bolsters campus ministry programs using students and faculty to encourage peer involvement. RENEW helps students find or reconnect with their faith during this time of emerging adulthood. In keeping with the concerns of students looking to educate themselves about social and global issues, RENEW International has developed, “The World on Campus”. This new faith-sharing resource addresses current issues as seen through prayer, Scripture, and Catholic Social Teaching. RENEW Theology on Tap is a highly sought-after program by many parishes throughout the country and around the world. It is a dynamic young Catholic adult ministry which evangelizes young people and helps lead them back to active involvement in the Church. Adults in their 20’s and 30’s gather together in comfortable group settings and explore theological topics made relevant to their lives and experiences today. Young people are happier once they know the comfort and strength of God’s love and receive guidance from Scripture. Through the programs and materials of RENEW International, they are finding their own adult voice and embracing their faith, while discovering the joy of celebrating spirituality with others.

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