As an incoming freshman, I was aware that Aquinas College was a Catholic college in the Dominican tradition; however, I had no interest in its religious identity. I believed the stereotypes and assumptions about Catholicism. I allowed the negative connotations to influence my personal association with religion and tried to keep my distance.
As an underclassman, I was eager to attend everything “Aquinas”; from club meetings to study groups, coffee dates to service events. I continued to keep Catholicism at a distance even though each activity on campus was influenced by Dominican charisms. Over the last four years, that desire didn’t go quite as planned.
As a senior this year, I would really like to say that the pillar of study is my main focus. However, what makes me proud to be an AQ Saint is the unique intersection of prayer, community, and service that has truly fostered my collegiate experience.
Like many other students, I began to find that my innate truths were intimately aligned with our Dominican charisms. Things that I deeply cared about and strived for were echoed here in the Catholic community. Catholic social teaching provided a clear articulation of my foundational beliefs such as care for God’s creation, human dignity, and most influential: solidarity. I held these principles prior to attending Aquinas College, but never assumed that their explicit expression was within Catholic identity. With these newly articulated and deeply held values, and quite a few role models, I began to focus on social justice and how to incorporate these beliefs into my lifestyle.
After countless service days and numerous retreat nights, I was hesitantly curious about what organized religion might look like. I, somewhat unconsciously, was seeking support from individuals willing to walk with me on my journey. I was encouraged by the community to attend Mass.
I don’t hesitate today to say that Bukowski Chapel on Sunday evenings is exactly where I was meant to meet Catholicism. Students serve as greeters, sing in the choir, and serve as extraordinary ministers of holy communion. This is where my peers gather. This space is where we come into our faith, search for the deeper meaning, and apply it to our futures. It’s where we think critically about what our faith means to us; as individuals, and how we’re called to live. It was surprisingly reassuring when I acknowledged this aspect of my identity and it created a home on campus.
Rooted in the Dominican charisms, the Aquinas College community stood by me and empowered me in the formation of my values. Campus has been a place to breathe, to learn, and to dig deeper into my identity. I’m asked to live our faith, to be a leader in the community, and to protect the journey of all those who wander. The Dominican charisms taught me what it means to be an AQ Saint, to lead by example, to practice hospitality, and to stand for social justice.
The best way I know how to preach is through my actions and I do so by being involved in the interfaith movement. Inspired by the Interfaith Youth Core, founded by Eboo Patel, I see my time on campus as an invitation to engage with our charisms.
Interfaith is about forming relationships. It’s creating the space for individuals to articulate their beliefs and to find commonalities that allow us, as a community, to serve the common good. Interfaith is actively preaching the Gospel through action. A place of inclusion and acceptance of personal values is what I strive to provide for others.
Interfaith engagement draws on my foundational beliefs and the strengths of my experience. It calls me into an ethic of accompaniment, where I, to the best of my ability, strive to journey with others, deeply and genuinely. When vocalizing beliefs, fostering relationships, or even creating interfaith programming,
I turn to the Dominican charisms. I remember and lean on the moments when my campus community blessed me with their ethic of accompaniment. Because of the influence of the Dominican charisms on my higher education, I value humility, compassion, and a good cup of coffee.
I know my time here at Aquinas is limited, but I hope my journey invites others to feel at home on and off campus.
Editor’s note: Because of the Grand Rapids Dominican Congregation, many women and men, whose lives have been impacted through the witness and influence of the Sisters, continue to make a difference locally, nationally and internationally. This article is the first of many that will be written by those who proudly proclaim Because of the Grand Rapids Dominicans I am…
Acceptance of personal values and a place of inclusion is what I strive to provide for others. Interfaith is about forming relationships. It’s creating the space for individuals to articulate their beliefs and to find commonalities that allow us, as a community, to serve the common good. Interfaith is actively preaching the Gospel through action.~ Kascha Sanor, Aquinas Collage Class of 2017