My Humble Little College

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It’s so easy to want more in life, especially in our materialistic society in which there are more brands and editions of cars than the amount of people that I personally know. A dog-eat-dog culture prevails and those that have more generally triumph over those that are scrambling at the bottom. I’m not going to deny that my competitive nature pushes me to get to the top of whatever pack I’m in– the desire to get the best grades in the classroom, to be first on the tennis line-up, to have the comfiest bed on campus (which I probably do, thank you very much, but that’s besides the point). It hasn’t always been easy to feel content with where I am at. However, I participated in an amazing opportunity yesterday that has reassured me that I am exactly where I am supposed to be (the most important piece of advice that my brother has given to me).

Last night, Fr. Sal, our new official campus priest, took a few of my fellow HNU students to his previous school, St. Mary’s College of Moraga, to celebrate in their annual celebration for the Virgin of Guadalupe. As soon as we set wheels on their campus, my jaw dropped and my eyes widened to take in such a spectacular and breathtaking sight. Their church was absolutely stunning– it is one of the most beautiful Roman Catholic churches that I have ever stepped into in my life. Their dining hall was tuned to the theme of the Hogwarts’ Great Hall, complete with the long tables and infinite amount of sweets inside the kitchen. I thought I was dreaming. Besides the grandeur of the whole place, I definitely initially envied the amount of people that participated in the mass and how structured and orderly the whole procession was.

Naturally, I felt despondent at everything that St. Mary’s was, that Holy Names was not. I felt like maybe that was where I belonged, until I glanced at Fr. Sal and saw how all his former students came up to him and gave him hugs and told him how much they all missed him. Before coming to HNU, he spent twenty years as a priest and Residence Coordinator in St. Mary’s.

At that moment, all I could think of was, how could Fr. Sal choose to leave this great place for Holy Names, an obviously more financially-challenged university that lacked in every department and fell short in prestige, with cutlery that students have to carefully pick from, a broken elevator, and a sad, somber chapel that doesn’t even have any pews? I was in shock and I didn’t understand why anyone would want to leave a beautiful place…

And then I remembered something that he told me a few weeks ago during one of our talks, when I asked him why he chose to be here today. He said, “At first, I was really hesitant… but when I arrived here at Holy Names, I just felt like I am finally home. This is home to me.” As soon as he said those words, I immediately teared up, and those same words hit me with an even bigger impact now, now that I saw the place that he left behind. If Fr. Sal can leave behind such luxury to live in a place that starkly compares with the former, then surely I should snap out of my daydream of moving to Moraga and appreciate Holy Names for the homey, comfortable place that it is.

After reflecting upon those events last night, I eventually came to the realization that I am extremely lucky to be in HNU. I have never met such incredibly nice people in my life. The very first day that I arrived here, everyone welcomed me and I instantly felt like this was where I belonged. I almost feel like a traitor, ashamed that I considered transferring to Moraga… for what? For all-you-can-eat lemon bars and double chocolate chip cookies? It almost sounds pathetic. It is pathetic. I’m so fortunate to be a part of a small, cozy community that leaves nobody behind. I am so thankful for our humble little chapel that I feel at home in… after all, it is the house of God. And to be able to personally participate in the service every Sunday and give a hand in the ministry in any way that I can. And what other school will you find your beloved priest lining up behind you in the cafeteria line, asking if he can sit with you during lunch, or treats everyone with cookies and pie every week? After a semester in this school, I realize that this school symbolizes my very essence– small, personable, gregarious but private all at once. And that view… Not a day passes that I don’t stop and inhale a deep breath of relief and gratefulness. I am not about the fancy, pruned trees or altars so grand that I feel intimidated sitting in the chapel, with the same apprehension that I would get if I were sitting in the principal’s office. Who was I kidding? I’ve never been that way in my twenty years of life. I am everything that Holy Names offers to me and I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is where I belong.

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