Young adults share faith stories

Lindsay Steele
Will Colony and Charlotte DeCoster, members of St. Mary Parish and 2020 graduates of Regina Catholic Education Center, both in Iowa City, share their faith stories Aug. 1 at St. Mary Church.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

IOWA CITY — Earlier this month, young adults Will Colony and Charlotte DeCoster spoke at the first St. Mary Parish Faith Journeys program since the start of the pandemic. The lifelong parishioners, graduates of Regina Catholic Education Center in 2020, talked about their involvement growing up in the church and how college has affected their faith lives.

Faith Journeys, a program that grew out of the Vision 20/20 Convocation in 2019, had begun to gain traction when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Will and Charlotte were scheduled to speak in the spring of 2020.
“We’ve waited more than 15 months to hear today’s speakers,” organizer Dan Teets told attendees assembled at St. Mary’s or tuning in via livestream. Teets is the director of Adult Spiritual Formation at St. Mary Parish.

Will’s story


Will, an incoming sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said he believed in the power of prayer from an early age, perceiving God as a protector. This perception of God was shattered around the age of 10 when he lost his grandfather to illness. “I figured, if God would take someone I loved, he obviously didn’t listen to my prayers. So, why bother?” For the rest of elementary school and junior high, he “went through the motions” at school and at church, but felt disconnected from his faith.

Several years later, he began incorporating daily prayer into his life again following the death of his newborn cousin. “My uncle and his wife were crushed. They had endured multiple miscarriages before this, and when it seemed like God was on their side, they lost their baby before they could even hold him. He and his wife were not very religious, so I thought the only way I could help is if I tried praying a little every day.”

It turned into a “nightly meditation” during which he prayed for loved ones, thanked God for the blessings in his life and finished with a Hail Mary or Our Father. In 2018, Will’s uncle and his wife welcomed a healthy baby girl and asked Will to be the godfather.

Becoming a eucharistic minister, serving as a youth representative on the parish council and participating in Kairos retreats also helped boost Will’s renewed faith.
The pandemic threw another obstacle in Will’s faith journey, with cancellations of events making it easy to become “lackadaisical.” Making face masks and doing other works of service helped him keep God close during that time.

“My faith journey has had its ups and downs,” he said but “you only get out of a relationship what you put into it.” He doesn’t feel completely satisfied with his faith life as is, and is still searching for a faith home in Milwaukee that “even comes close” to the one he had at St. Mary-Iowa City. But, “I know (God) will look out for me because he has a plan for me.”

Charlotte’s story

Charlotte, an incoming sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, talked about being away from home for the first time and how it has affected her faith life.

Upon arriving on campus in Madison, Charlotte fell into a “slump” of not attending Sunday Mass. “I had the opportunity to have a stereotypical lazy Sunday, and I loved it,” she admitted.

Still, “God put people in my life to get me out of my slump.” Though she didn’t regularly attend Mass for several months, she found a second home at the university’s Newman Catholic Student Center, a place where she could “study and find peace.” The people she met there “helped me feel grateful for my (Catholic) upbringing.” She also developed a passion for service, which “helps reinforce my faith.”

Reflecting on her experiences, she has come to see the act of nourishing one’s faith as “kind of like working out. When you practice it consistently, you feel good and can notice the role it plays in your life. You may miss a few days without losing much progress, but once you stop making it a routine you can see a noticeable difference. If you fall off for a while, it will probably take hard work and dedication to get back to where you were before, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work for it. Both God and Planet Fitness are always ready for you regardless of previous decisions.”

Presentations available online

To view a recording of Will and Charlotte’s talks and a question and answer session, go to St. Mary’s YouTube page at .

Upcoming program

The next Faith Journeys program will take place Oct. 24 at 5 p.m. at St. Mary. Husband and wife Kirk Phillips and Mary Jean Perino Phillips, who work in the healthcare field, will share their story about surviving COVID-19. A free dinner will follow, if COVID-19 protocols allow.

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