LUMEN GENTIUM AWARD WINNER

College’s Catholic community helped youth rediscover faith

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Emily Sheehan, the youngest Lumen Gentium awardee this year, has already taken to heart the honor’s message of being a light to the nations.
“My absolute favorite Bible verse is Matthew 5:16. The more I’ve reflected on it and analyzed it, the more I knew that I wanted to live it out,” the Bryant University senior says, referring to Christ’s command to “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
The most significant of the good works Sheehan has accomplished during her time at Bryant is founding the Catholic Student Association, a student organization within the Office of Campus Ministry designed to foster a sense of community among the Catholic students on campus.
“We were really inspired by the Jewish student group Hillel, and their emphasis on creating a student-led experience and creating a more spiritual campus life,” she explains.
“Our most popular events are our Sunday Dinners, where we take an hour before evening Mass to come together and relax and share in community. The whole campus is welcomed, too, not just Catholics.”
Other activities the group organizes include retreats, “Make Your Own Rosary” nights and service events — such as their recent project to raise money and send Valentines to the children in St. Jude’s Research Hospital.
Sheehan knows how important a time college can be in the development of a person’s faith life — her own journey over her time at Bryant saw her rediscovering her Catholic faith and making her confirmation before founding the CSA.
“I wasn’t very involved as a freshman,” she recounts, describing a period when she had drifted somewhat away from the faith and “felt lost and alone.”
It was in her sophomore year that Sheehan attended the Steubenville East Catholic Youth Conference and had her spiritual reawakening.
“I went to confession as part of the conference, and I was telling the priest that I was just having so much trouble struggling with doubt. Then, all of a sudden, I just felt this fullness and this sense of hope, and it just really changed me.”
It was this rediscovery of her faith that inspired Sheehan’s work with the CSA, which she hopes will help other students to grow in spirituality during their time as undergraduates. She has already had success stories.
“There was a student whose father had passed away, and she had lost her faith as a result,” explains Sheehan.
“But spending time in community with us really helped her find her way again, and she asked me to be her confirmation sponsor this year, which was awesome.”
After she graduates this Spring, Sheehan plans to put her Business degree to good use by working as a staff auditor with Wolf & Company in Boston. Although she is saddened to be leaving the Catholic Student Association behind, she says that she is not nervous about the group’s future.
“The vice-president I have right now is a little prodigy,” she says with a laugh, saying that she is positive the club will remain in capable hands.
“We also get so much guidance from Rebecca Burgess [the Catholic Outreach coordinator at Bryant], that I’m not worried at all about leaving the club, even though I’ll always hold it very close to my heart.”


— AWARDS BANQUET —
The honorees will be awarded during a dinner at Twin River Event Center in Lincoln on Wednesday, May 15.

Guests wishing to purchase tickets to the dinner — whose proceeds will support Diocesan Youth Ministry — are asked to register online at dioceseofprovidence.org/lumen-gentium-awards.

For more information, please call 401-277-2121.