As a practicing Catholic, I had always imagined growing up that I would attend one our many noted Catholic colleges, like the University of Notre Dame, Boston College or Georgetown. I felt that it would be at one of those schools where I had the best opportunity to achieve the best education possible.
Of course, the Ivy League schools are still widely regarded as the cream of the crop among American universities, but as a person whose considers his religious beliefs to be the most important aspect of his life, and as someone who wants to attend Mass on a regular basis, I still gravitated more toward the Catholic colleges.
I felt that there were many advantages of attending such a school, such as the fact that there are usually daily services at the university chapel and that I would be going to school with a lot of like-minded people.
I thought that students who attended Catholic colleges typically did not have to explain or defend their beliefs to other students, because if a non-Catholic was at such a school, that person must not have any issues with the Church anyway.
For a number of different reasons and through some unforeseen circumstances, I ended up going to a university affiliated with the Methodist church that was relatively close to my childhood home.
When I first enrolled, I have to admit that I had some reservations. I wondered if I would be asked about my religion or if it would become an issue with other students. It was a real source of concern for me, because I had never been faced with that kind of situation.
As it turned out, my concerns were completely unfounded. I quickly learned that while some people were interested in my faith and had some questions about it, they were all very respectful, and there was absolutely no hostility whatsoever. I learned a lot about the Methodist Church as well, and actually attended the school’s chapel service from time to time.
What I ultimately learned from the experience was that both churches basically believed the same thing when you came right down to it and really just had a different way of carrying out their services and customs. The only significant difference between my university and other Catholic colleges was the chapel service itself.
I have wondered what I will encourage my children to do when they reach college age. I believe that I will still recommend one of the Catholic colleges that I was hoping to attend, but stress to them that if they choose not to, it will not mean that their college experience will be any less enriching or fulfilling.