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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Jesus is my homeboy but not my savior


A reflection on drifting from your faith

Growing up, Catholicism wasn’t just a religion, it was a lifestyle.

Everyone has their own unique take on growing up with, or without, religion. I was really lucky, in the sense that my experience was very positive. My parents raised me to be a free-thinking young woman who read (a lot), questioned (everything), and valued compassion above all else.

In my house, everyone was welcome, difficult discussions were encouraged, and tolerance was expected. As a direct result, I grew up loving religion. Mary was a young woman, who provided salvation for mankind; Jesus and his homeboys, the Apostles, were the ultimate squad goals; and the best part was empathy and love for all people, no exceptions. What could be better than that? Before I knew it, childhood and adolescence were over and I was still in Catholic school.

As of 2017, I’ve attended Catholic school for a seventeen consecutive years.

Actually, it probably isn’t that rare here at Saint Joseph’s University. According to Saint Joseph’s University data regarding religious affiliation, in the fall of 2014, approximately 80 percent of the undergraduate student body here self-identified as Catholic. And while my best friends here all attended public schools, you don’t have to go very far to find someone ready to reminisce about getting receiving their Holy Communion and singing the hymns in Mass. But here’s the thing:

Currently, I don’t identify as a Catholic.

I know, after years of sacraments, religious-affiliated holidays, going to Mass, praying before bed, and thinking about God, I don’t like to call myself Catholic. However, originally coming to St. Joe’s, I did.

Ask anyone in my Philadelphia Service Immersion Group, the pre-freshmen year service starter, I was just as Catholic as the rest of them— probably more so. During our nightly reflections, a younger Victoria spent time lamenting on what it meant to be a Catholic and the religious mission. (To this day, I’m fairly certain everyone in that group thought I was going to be a nun because I was so devout. In my defense, I was, and continue to be, very passionate about community service and outreach).

But it only took me the first few months to realize that going to Mass felt like a chore. Yes, I understand that sounds really lazy. Didn’t Jesus live and die for our sins, but I can’t even make it through an hour a week? But trust me, I’m someone who is continuously saying ‘yes’ to life and at the time, I was pretty sure that included God, Jesus, and the Catholic church. Until I began to feel like a huge hypocrite.

The worst part was that I just didn’t understand Communion, which is the centripetal part of the entire Mass experience. I would get in line methodically, as a result of doing it for years and years before, and accept the Eucharist. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel spiritual; it was more like I didn’t feel anything. For some reason, I lost the loyalty I once held, and had no desire to get it back.

After I stopped attending services, I wondered if maybe I needed to identify with another religion, for the experience to come full circle, but then realized jumping out of one and into another was probably a bad choice. I needed time and space to consider what was next. I’m still at that place today.

This phase in my life doesn’t disregard everything Catholicism has given me. As a religion, it taught me some really solid non-negotiable ethics and challenged me to lead with my heart. It’s not healthy to suppress a part of your life and identity and that’s not what I intend to do. I don’t have to believe in the Trinity to be grateful for how my life unfolded with Catholicism as a crucial part of my growth. I look back at Communion pictures and funny stories from church and I am happy.

As for my parents, I still go to Church when I’m home. I pray when they ask me to. I ask them about their faith. I respect their decision to believe. Whenever I mutter “god damn it” under my breath by accident, I apologize, because it hurts their feelings. Respecting others’ religion requires true empathy. Jesus taught me that.

I am so lucky to have supportive parents who love me for whatever religion I choose. They want me to be happy and to use those same values of love, empathy, and compassion they taught me as a child. Maybe I’ve taken time off the faith, but values should never “take time off.” Honestly, if Jesus does exist eternally, I’m pretty sure he’ll agree.

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