Below is the full text of the essay by Tori Litschgi, Finalist in the Fireside Essay Scholarship
Attending a Catholic school for thirteen years has immensely influenced my life. I am a member of the Methodist Church, so I do not practice the Catholic faith. However, I believe that it has shaped me into the person I am today. Since kindergarten, I have taken religion classes. Even though I had to memorize Catholic teachings, Catholicism is very similar to my faith. Aside from minute differences, I have been able to relate to and grow from my religion classes.
In lower school, I learned mainly about the Commandments and the faith, in general, but over the course of those many years, the preachings of good behavior and values have become habits. By always having religion classes, supportive teachers, opportunities to attend Mass, and strict regulations of the honor code, I have become accustomed to behaving as a young woman of God and treating others the way God wants. I feel that one of my strengths is sincerity, and I have developed this value because of my religious upbringing.
More specifically, my seventh grade religion teacher influenced my understanding of faith. I remember hating her class and how difficult she made it, but looking back, I believe I benefited the most by it. She ingrained into our minds that we must pray everyday, or we are committing a sin. Feeling guilty, I began to pray everyday. Eventually, it became a habit and I always made time for prayer immediately when I woke up and right before I went to bed. Ever since, my relationship with God has grown immensely. Before having this teacher, God was always there, but I didn’t truly understand the power of prayer and the advantages to having a strong faith.
In high school, my favorite religion classes have been Media and Values, Ethics, and Social Justice. I am able to relate to these courses in daily life. In Media and Values, I learned about using my faith when making decisions about the types of movies and songs I choose to listen to and model my life after. I have never looked at a movie or listened to a song in the same way after learning how they are created and the horrendous messages conveyed that I have often overlooked. I thus learned how to apply media mindfulness and make the right decisions of what media I allowed to influence my life.
In Ethics, I really enjoyed the class discussions about our opinions on current issues. These discussions not only improved my communication skills, but also increased my ability to respect the other side’s opinion, if justifiable.
Finally, in Social Justice this year, one lesson that really struck me was the first unit: integrity. The Academy of the Holy Names has raised me to be a woman of integrity. Even though I may see others cheating under the stress of succeeding, I know that my integrity is more important than achieving ten points higher on a test. When I sign the honor code, I truly mean it. I treat others the way I would want to be treated and try to live my life setting a good example for my younger brothers and the people around me. These specific religion classes have implemented faith into my everyday life and have helped me make fundamental decisions that have shaped my character.
I learned from my teachers and the sisters at AHN that God is my friend, and that He will always be here for me, especially when I need him the most. When I was going through a tough time with friends, school, and my social life, I would plea for God’s help to stop the sadness and comfort me. As time progressed, I did heal and discovered my true friends.
My faith has led me to believe that everything does happen for a reason and that God put me through obstacles to set me on the right journey to become the person I was meant to be. God is the one to Whom I can always turn. I know that no matter what trials I encounter in life, I will always have the confidence to stand up for my beliefs and face my worst fears.
Thanks to the Academy of the Holy Names, I know that when I finally leave these yellow brick walls, I will always take a piece with me: God. Without this type of education and environment, I would not have the same morals, the same faith, or the same strength as I do today.