July 22-Aug. 4, 2004
Looking Back, Moving Forward
By Becky Barlow/ SUN contributing writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Graduating Senior Reflects on the Role Her Catholic Faith Plays in Her Life
Editor’s note: This reflection comes from Becky Barlow, life-long parishioner of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Binghamton. A fellow parishioner heard her speak a few weeks ago at Mass about her graduation. He was so impressed that he called The SUN and suggested that we print her words. With Father Dan Caruso’s help, we located Becky and she kindly submitted her reflection. She is the daughter of Wayne and Suzanne Barlow and will begin studies at Elmira College this fall.
BINGHAMTON — When Father Caruso asked me to speak today about what my faith and community have done for me and what expectations I have for my faith in the future, I had to think for a moment. Those are questions I have never been asked, but ones to which the answers are important.
Before I can talk about my faith, I have to talk about my community at St. Mary’s. A number of people in this church laid the foundation for the strong faith I have now. My family chose to raise me in the Catholic Church. They have all been supportive, answering questions when I asked and always encouraging. When I began altar serving seven years ago, Paul Carman, our seminarian at the time [now Father Carman], taught me reverence for God and for the Mass. My religious education teachers, my own uncle included, were able to give me the information I needed to take the next step. I built off of that respect for God a desire to learn more and a desire to become closer to Him, His son, and the Holy Spirit.
Throughout that education, Mrs. DiStefano, our director of religious ed, encouraged me to get involved to the point where, after making my Confirmation, I became a teacher myself. Father Cerwonka has also played a big part in my life. His faith in miracles and in the power of prayer has only made mine grow. Apart from all of these people in this parish community, it goes without saying that Father Caruso has been instrumental in the development of my faith. His presence, guidance, and constant encouragement have helped me to develop a faith stronger than I ever thought possible. From him I have learned the importance of prayer in my everyday life and that living that life without trying to do God’s will means nothing. Each of these members of our parish have given me the knowledge and encouragement I needed to become involved at St. Mary’s and to explore the faith that has become so central to my life.
My faith has done so much for me, especially over these past couple years. My grandfather’s death last year, although not unexpected, greatly shook me. Without my faith, without knowing that I could turn to God as a constant source of comfort, I would never have been able to get through it. My faith has also been with me throughout four years of high school; years that were filled with achievements, upsets, and the most important decisions I have ever had to make. My faith has helped me to see that the wonderful gifts God has given me have made these achievements possible. All downfalls have been learning experiences, more rewarding than my accomplishments because I was able to learn more about myself.
Aside from academics, high school is a time to discover who you are and find the friends that will help you grow as that person. Interestingly, my closest friends and I all have different religious backgrounds. I can’t tell you how much we’ve talked about our respective faiths, or lack thereof, but I can tell you how much I’ve learned from them. Beliefs are so different from person to person, but being part of a religion means so much. Most people have such a better understanding of right and wrong, and have a solid moral background. Having faith in high school, I found, gave me an advantage. It keeps you out of bad situations and, when things get tough, whether it be problems with classes, friends, or something else, somehow you know everything will work out. I depended on my faith to get me through the pressures of high school, and now I’m graduating. It was a learning experience in which I really did learn about my religious values and myself.
I will depend upon my faith more than ever in the immediate future. I’m still not sure that I made the right decision about leaving home, going to the college I chose, or even taking the major I signed up for. I was reluctant to make all of these decisions, and waited until the last possible moment to choose. My fear was that making the wrong decisions would follow me through the rest of my life, but now I don’t think so. My faith, again, is playing a part. I’m beginning to have faith that what happens will happen. There must be some reason that I’m going where I decided to go, and I’m sure that these next few years will bring insight as to what I should study. I feel like there is something I am meant to do with my life, and I know that attending college will help me find what that something is. I am one of those people who likes to know exactly what to do. I’m not comfortable with uncertainty, and I have no idea what these next four or five years have in store for me, but I do know that I will find out. I have faith that God, in His own time, will let me know what path to follow.
In the more distant future, I can only develop a deeper understanding of my faith and grow in a more meaningful relationship with God. It will be a never-ending journey that I will look forward to everyday. As an 18 year old, I have so much more to learn about my faith and myself, but the foundation is there; I just need to add more as the years go by. My faith and community have meant even more to me than is possible to express in words, but I have tried. I will depend upon that faith in the future, although the community that raised me in that faith will not be with me. Going to church anywhere else won’t seem the same because I’ll miss St. Mary’s, but as Father Caruso has said to me over and over again, I’ll be okay. I will take with me what I’ve learned and will begin a new chapter of my life. Many things will change, my faith included, but I know that that change will always be positive. As the years pass, I will develop a strong, meaningful relationship with God, and my faith can only grow.