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As a 16-year-old young woman, baptized Roman Catholic, it can be difficult to find a comfortable place within the Church. Our society's focus on materialism and superficiality causes our generation to become distracted from the path of God, and youth are exposed to many influences and messages that put us in a different place and direction than our parents and grandparents experienced at our age. This is where we are presented with a challenge and an opportunity--to resist ever-present temptations, and to find a balance in our lives: within society and in the Catholic community.
One way I try to find that balance is by taking advantage of the opportunities I am offered through my Catholic school education at Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Newton, Massachusetts. Through the Sacred Heart Network of schools in 44 countries across the world, I was able to spend three weeks this past March engaging in a new culture and Catholic school community at a Sacred Heart school in Rome, Italy. I lived with my host student's family and attended L'Istituto Sacro Cuore della Trinita dei Monti located at the top of the Spanish Steps right in the center of Rome. Little did I know that my visit to Rome would coincide with the convening of the conclave of cardinals and the selection of a new pope!
Amid the excitement and preparation for the conclave, Rome was abuzz with media and thousands of tourists. There was a great feeling of anticipation for all that was to occur. Although the event was such a huge occasion for the world, the atmosphere was very genuine and almost intimate. Everyone seemed to be in the midst of a very personal experience, myself included. Seeing the black smoke and white smoke first hand and witnessing Pope Francis step onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica was incredibly moving experience that I will carry with me the rest of my life. I felt embraced by Pope Francis' words as he addressed the crowd that evening, and his actions in the days that followed were enlightening to me.
The following week, I attended the installation of Pope Francis at St. Peter's Square to witness this great moment in history for the Roman Catholic Church. As Pope Francis navigated through the crowd, I could see young children being lifted up to him to receive his blessing. At that moment, surrounded by thousands of strangers, I found myself at peace within this great Catholic community--not divided by race, social class, or other barriers, but rather brought together by our devotion to our Catholic faith.
Next month, I will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. As a Catholic school student, an active participant in my parish of St. Cecilia in Boston, and now having experienced the selection of Pope Francis, I feel a renewed sense of faith in the Roman Catholic Church. I am very confident in my decision to enter fully into the Catholic faith, and I feel compelled to take action and live my life as Jesus has asked.
This summer I will travel to Gallup, New Mexico (one of the poorest dioceses in the country) along with other young parishioners from St. Cecilia Church to participate in a week of service and learning with other youth from around the country. This experience will provide me with yet another opportunity to deepen my faith, serve my brothers and sisters, and continue to cultivate my relationship with God as an adult. Sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation, and with Pope Francis as my guide, I know I will have the grace and strength to find my way along the faith journey and live my life more fully as a young woman in the Roman Catholic faith.
Madeline is one of 14,000 Religious Education students across the Archdiocese of Boston who will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation this year. Religious Education is one of 50 programs supported through the annual Catholic Appeal: www.BostonCatholicAppeal.org.