There is a strange tendency in today’s world to treat religion as either taboo or a total joke; for much of my life, I have been the lone ‘church enthusiast’ of my friend group. I’m not here to argue over the problems of the Catholic Church or justify my reasons for my faith—that’s a conversation for another day.
I am here to talk about my own experience with music ministry in college and how it has changed my life for the better.
I am a proud member of the Villanova Pastoral Musicians: the music ministry group responsible for weekly masses as well as various other ministry-related events on campus. I’ve been a part of this group since the very beginning of my college years — it was the first group I joined — and I am so lucky to have found it so soon.
I’ve previously written articles that discuss my passion for getting involved: I believe that joining extracurriculars on campus is a vital piece of the college experience. While that was my main reason for joining pastorals in the first place, this group has proven to be so much more than an opportunity to make friends and gain leadership experience for me.
I went to public school for most of my life — aside from four formative years in high school, of course — and while I have a family of churchgoers, my personal faith journey wasn't something I really thought about. I was what I like to call a lazy Catholic: I attended church, I checked off all the right boxes in my theology classes, I understood the ‘gist’ of my faith (if you can even HAVE a ‘gist’ of an entire faith dogma; but I digress), but I didn’t challenge myself to actively build, explore, and understand my own belief system.
Cue my entrance into Pastorals.
I signed up for Pastorals’ week-long pre-Orientation program—called Caritas—with the intention of getting to know the campus early and maybe make a few friends to ease my transition into college (the purpose of Caritas is to integrate new freshmen into the group while learning music to perform at the school year’s opening mass). I wasn’t sure what to expect; I figured if I didn’t like it I could easily quit.
I was in no way, shape, or form prepared to be moved by the experience.
Never before had I been around so many deeply faithful, truly spiritual young adults in my life. It was inspiring. For the first time in my life, I witnessed young people participating in mass because they wanted to, not because they felt they had to. When they prayed, you could almost feel it. The music we produced wasn’t just beautiful; it was powerful. Mass took on an entirely new meaning for me.
I had never felt as close to God as I did in that first week.
The beauty of Pastorals didn’t just end at the mass, either; the people involved in this group live their faith every day. They believe in service, in loving one another, in forgiveness. I have made some of the best friends of my life through this group, and I truly believe that that is a direct result of God’s presence and effect on them. I’ve never had to question their place in my life or my place in theirs.
There is a unique beauty found in friendships founded on something greater than each other.
Between the beautiful music and the promise of faith-founded companionship, Pastorals quickly became my home-away-from-home. There is one story from my own experience that encapsulates the beauty of campus ministry—specifically Pastorals—more than any of my words possibly could, and that is why I have chosen to close out this article with it:
Villanova has a tradition within the orientation mass to invite the parents to lay their hands on their child and say a blessing over them as a way to signify the start of their college journey. My parents, unfortunately, could not attend the mass as they were moving my sister into her apartment half a state away. When the time came for the freshmen members of pastorals to step down from the choir and join their families for the blessing, I simply stayed put and didn’t say anything.
To this day I’m not sure who noticed first or started first, but within seconds approximately 30 pairs of hands descended on me, acting as my stand-in family members and giving me my very own Pastorals-esque welcome into the Villanova community.
I felt truly blessed, indeed.