Being non-Catholic at a Catholic college

When I first started telling people what college I was going to, the most common response was, “Where is that?” That response wasn’t a surprise, but the other response was: “Isn’t that a Catholic school?” This question was intimidating at first, not coming from a Catholic family or knowing much about Catholicism, but after I came here and saw the atmosphere of the college, I wasn’t as worried.

Loras College is highly praised for being Catholic. It has a strong foundation based on its faith tradition. There are required classes that allow students to explore Catholicism, whether you’re Catholic or not. This can be kind of intimidating when faith is brought up and you can’t relate because you aren’t Catholic. Catholicism has just enough of a presence on campus for you to know that the school is religious, but it doesn’t force anything on its students. There’s a church on campus, and emails go out frequently about spiritual life activities, but students aren’t forced to participate. It’s comforting to know that your own religion is your own;  you don’t have to change to fit in. There are plenty of others on campus who may not even be religious.

I grew up in a religious household, but it wasn’t Catholic. I was baptized and confirmed as a Lutheran, and am currently a member of a United Methodist church. Although I go to church whenever possible, I don’t go habitually. I’m strong in my religious tradition and what I believe in. I’m still open to others’ ideas, and will happily engage in conversations about my faith. That is something that has helped me to feel accepted here. Everyone is accepting of others’ beliefs, whether or not they’re the same as theirs.

Both traditions that hold a place in my heart differ drastically from Catholicism. When I first attended Mass for my Catholic Traditions class it was overwhelming. There was so much up and down and kneeling, it was easy to get lost. Thankfully, the classmates that I went with were Catholic, so they were able to help me follow along. I was able to see how Catholic students do a good job of helping everyone feel included. Not once have I ever been shamed for not being Catholic, which is important for a campus like this. We take pride in what we believe in, and it shows in everything we do.

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Rose Gottschalk is a copy editor for The Lorian.

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