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Saints on the Hill: Sharing a Personal Leap of Faith

Jim Norman

Stella Bandak’s faith journey started like many others. During her recent Saints on the Hill presentation, Stella ’22 said she “grew up Catholic—getting baptized before I could walk or talk, starting CCD at preschool, receiving the sacraments as early as possible, becoming an altar server, and now, serving as a Sacristan at Canterbury.”

For the longest time, she had not pictured her faith journey going any other way. But right around sophomore year, she said, some personal reflection about her sexuality left her conflicted about that faith. She recalled that, in eighth grade, she went on a retreat and came away “wondering if I had liked girls.” Two years later, she could not escape the question of who she was—but, she said, it brought forth new questions about her faith.

At first, Stella turned away from God but soon realized that faith played too important a role in her life. “So I started to understand the Church and God differently,” she explained. “I found more clarity about myself. God loves everyone. He would not have put me on this earth if I was not meant to be here. I need to do great things, to become an engineer, to grow and discover myself, and to make the most of my life.” 

By sharing her experience, Stella hoped to also offer some clarity for her fellow classmates who might have questions about their own faith. “Faith is not meant to be rigid. It is meant to grow and change as we grow and change,” she said. “I am here to tell any of you struggling in a similar way that, while it may not be exactly what I went through, sometimes questioning your beliefs is enough. You have the freedom to choose how you want to exercise your faith.”

Continuing to stress that every faith journey is different and deeply personal, Stella said, “Why are we here? We are here to challenge beliefs, change and grow, accomplish a great amount, and exercise faith. You can do this in any way that works for you. You are not stuck in a box.”

And with one sentence, Stella perfectly summed up her personal faith journey: “Discovering your own truth is such a powerful thing.”