By Grace Edwards
High school is a stressful time. As a senior in public high school I have homework every night, college applications, scholarship applications, extracurricular activities, and a part-time job. As Catholic high school students, we also have Mass every weekend, youth group and church retreats. Sometimes it’s hard when you need to be going to church Sunday morning but you would rather stay out late on a Saturday night. Time management is difficult, and today most people don’t act like their religion should be a top priority. In a public high school people don’t understand that Wednesday nights are church nights, or when you skip a basketball game to go to a church retreat.
In high school you’re trying to find out who you are and what you believe in. The truth is that in high school it’s not always “cool” to be that student who believes in abstinence. It’s not “cool” to go home early on a Saturday night because you have church the next morning. It’s hard to fit in. That’s the point where you have to stop caring so much about what everybody else thinks. But that’s the hard part. As high school students, we care about what everyone thinks, from friends to enemies. Society doesn’t help the decision-making any easier. On TV, you never see the show about the Christian high school kids. You see kids getting pregnant, drinking, doing drugs, etc. Kids think that is what makes you “cool.” I do not agree, and if I am the one who speaks up and disagrees with everyone, I will end up getting treated as an outcast. You may not get invited to the next party, and you may lose a friend or boyfriend. However as Catholic teens we have opportunities to connect with others. I’ve made so many friends through retreats like Catholics In Action and Christian Leadership Institute where we make each other feel comfortable to be ourselves.
In a public school, adults will disagree with you, too. I had a teacher once tell me she didn’t want her kid to be Catholic because our religion is too strict. I hear some adults joke with students about things like sex before marriage. We’re taught about contraceptives in health class. In history class we are taught about the big bang theory, but not that God created the universe. If you are the student who asks why we are not taught otherwise, you get shut down. I consider myself very lucky because growing up in a Catholic family my parents and grandparents are always encouraging me to speak up for what I believe in. They are my daily reminders of God’s presence.
People think that because we are young Catholics we make no decisions for ourselves, and that we have been taught to believe things — like not believing in gay marriage or disagreeing with abortion — because we were told to believe that way by our parents and priests. The truth is that our faith can be really hard to understand, but that doesn’t mean I can’t believe in it. It’s called faith for a reason. We can’t necessarily see God, or hear him talk whenever we want to, but we believe he is there, and he will show up in our lives in unexpected ways when we need him. Faith is what helps me decide on my own that Catholicism is what I want to believe in. As young people of the Church, we have so many ideas that should be heard.
Being a Catholic high school student in a public high school certainly has its challenges. We are supposed to be leaders in our school, but also in our church. But when we try to connect school with church, we have so many people who may shut us down. We have to set our priorities. It’s easy for us to feel like no one gets us. However, I believe we are still very lucky to be Catholic because I know that no matter how many people disagree with us, God is always there, and for that I will be forever grateful.
(Grace is a senior at Winfield-Mt. Union and belongs to St. James Parish in Washington.)