Leaving Ball State Campus in February of 2018, I was sure that it would be my home for all my college years. As usual, my plans and expectations were turned upside down. The 18-year-old Mary was proud to put claim Ball State University as her new home this day three years ago. I do not regret claiming Ball State as my college home at that time. I could not have guessed that I would three years have committed to another college for Senior year and two additional years.
Freshman Mary despite a roommate situation that did not last till Thanksgiving was for the most part enjoying herself. Even despite a mental health turn I survived Freshman year. I made or established friendships that have lasted these past two and a half years. I discovered and dived into involvement in St.Francis Parish and Newman Center. I enjoyed participating in Swing Society , Chi Alpha, Dr. Who Club, and eventually the Student Newspaper the Daily News. I did not in any way want leave. But things quickly changed.
I love reading and even though I declared a dual major concentrations in Creative Writing and Literature to avoid having to go through making another four year plan (thanks Honors) I am happy I declared English. God Blessed me with a talent and gift of good writing skills. Though he had to put me to the test because campus devoted to diversity and inclusion it soon became clear that my Catholic Christian and politically conservative worldview was not welcome at the university.
My earliest memory of this was in a beginner screenwriting course Sophomore year. A student wrote a script in which the Crucifix was sexualized at one point. I brought up that some Christians particularly Catholics may be greatly offended by that. I was promptly rebuked and was told it was the author’s world and it needed no change.
Later in the Spring semester (aka pandemic central), a campus incident caused a discussion about policing in a class. I brought up that one should consider black police officers and that why would they join an occupation that is racist against the. I was told more or less verbatim by the professor that black police officers experienced “internalized racism”. It wasn‘t just professor comments like these that bothered me, but also assigned reading content.
There were several instances where I was assigned texts that when read made me feel dirty, violated, and sinful. One early instance of this was when a graphic autobiography that I had to read for a modern literature class. It had a sexually explicit image. I emailed the teacher mentioning that it made me uncomfortable. The professor asked in their response email for me to consider why the author included this and what it added to the story. So in short I should lean into this discomfort. No thanks I’d prefer not to look at it.
The final straw was an incident where I was assigned a peer review for an explicit account of a classmate’s sexual history. I emailed the teacher and even mentioned that my Catholic faith led me to have moral qualms with the content. I asked for a change in peer review and was denied. I will acknowledge I contacted the professor the day the peer review was due. Even so when the reasoning for asking me to do the peer review for this content was that I would come into contact with views that I disagreed with I felt I had been gipped. At that moment I definitively determined I would transfer for.
Now all of this was not my only reason for choosing to transfer. I knew I would want to transfer to a Catholic college or university. My other two schools I applied to were Marian University of Indianapolis (Indianapolis, IN) and Christendom College (Front Royal, VA). The second latter or rather the latter's graduate school had a role in my decision to transfer. In the last few years, Christendom College Graduate School has run a program called the Christendom@Project. This program consists of graduate level course written for undergraduates so that undergraduates interested in diving into Catholic theology may do so while attending a public college or university. It is an out of pocket cost for the students, but in my opinion it was totally worth the money. So far I have taken two classes through this program SCRI 502: The Bible and HIST 501: Early Christian Literature. These have both grown my faith and made me fall deeper in love with it. As they have been my favorite courses I have taken each semester of my junior year of college. I have taken away so much from them. I can owe my addition of a major in Catechetics at Franciscan to my enrollment in this program which was introduced to me through St. Francis.
Some of the things I gained from the Bible course other than a new spark of love for the Word of God are many. I realized that each bible story is interconnected with all the others. I realized how much the Old Testament points to Jesus, but also to the New Testament as a whole. Journeying through Proverbs taught me that ancient wisdom is still so applicable to day even though the way in which is stated may not be so relevant. Also in one of the essays I wrote for the class I got to talk about one of my favorite topics which is Mary, the Blessed Virgin and Mother as the New Ark of the Covenant. This class made me consider things I had never thought of before such as perhaps the reason the Ark of the Covenant has not been found was because Mary is the New Ark who carried God in the flesh in her womb. How incredibly awesome.
Early Christian Literature which I am finishing up as I write this post has given me such an appreciation for the Early Church and the Church Fathers. I now realize how much of the teachings I take for granted such as the Trinity and the hypostatic union of Jesus were hotly debated early on allowing me to have my perspective on them now. I have realized that the equality of the sexes (and their dignity) has always been in the Church especially when it comes to marriage (shout out to St. John Chrysostom). I have learned that the Church has always been blessed with erudite teachers and men of great strength. I have gained such a deep appreciation for martyrdom. Not all are called to it but I hope those who are will respond as St. Polycarp did "For eighty-six years I have been [Jesus'] servant, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" (The Martyrdom of Polycarp). It has truly inspired me to actually finish reading texts such as St. Augustine's Confessions (started it in high school still haven't finished).
These graduate level classes are what led me to apply to finish undergrad at Christendom. Though I did not end up settling upon Christendom, I am hoping that the school will flourish in the future. I also hope that the Christendom@Project will expand and grow and perhaps that other colleges with graduate programs will adopt this model to educate Catholic College students at public institutions.
I will confess however, since Christendom is the furthest away from my home and would be the most expensive to attend I put it on the back burner while I explored Marian and Franciscan as options. I did not even visit Christendom as with no spring break I had little opportunity to travel outside Indiana. Marian and Franciscan seemed at least somewhat more practical. Though during my Marian campus visit I felt that I could definitely spend the last of my college days there, there wasn't a one hundred percent peaceful feeling surrounding a decision to say "yes" to Marian. The Catholic faith definitely plays a role in the school, but I did not necessarily feel a bursting sense of Catholicism while walking around campus. I also had reservations about the English department as I couldn't tell how much the Catholic mission of the school affected its curriculum and teaching. Ironically, I visited Marian in the same month and close to the same day I believe that I decided to attend Ball State. But even though I left campus with some reservations I was still keeping an open mind because I wasn't sure how I would feel about Franciscan and my visit at that time was over a month away. But oh how the Lord would surprise me.
When I visited Franciscan on March 22, 2021, the air was electric with its Catholic identity. At one point on the tour when the group was standing outside Finnegan Fieldhouse I heard a student tell a friend that he was heading off to go pray the rosary. Wow, that is definitely not something I hear any day at Ball State. I love how when I met with the head of the English Department, Dr. Sunyoger, her love of the faith, her profession, and her students radiated from her. My parents saw it and my mom in particular noted she could see why I liked Dr. Sunyoger ( whom I had a previous virtual meeting with).
I will say that before meeting with Dr. Sunyoger my parents and I spent sometime in the Portiuncula (affectionately called the Port by those at Franciscan). There the apex of the peace I had started feeling before the tour really began came to its apex. Sitting in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament I felt deep in my soul the voice of Jesus say "Come home". This more or less gave me confirmation that I had found the school that was to be my new home. Though taking on a new major means extra time, and even on the visit day my second major was not official, I know that Franciscan is where the Lord is calling me. I will have to trust that I will be able to afford all three years as the last one will likely be fully my responsibility to fund. Yet, I am ready to take on this challenge and see how I grow at Franciscan. I can't wait to step on to campus for my second time come June 10 for the beginning of my Baron day. I cannot wait to be immersed in life at Franciscan. There I feel completely at home. Go Barons!