Hello! My name is Stephanie Wong, I graduated from McGill in 2013 and am now pursuing my Masters at the University of Toronto. Although it’s been over a year since I’ve left McGill, memories of the Newman Centre are still fresh in my mind. I remember stepping into the centre for the first time during my first week in Montreal, a bit overwhelmed by all the new faces and, not going to lie, tired from the trek up Rue Peel. Once I settled into my seat as mass began, I remember a distinct feeling of comfort, almost like I was home, even though I was in a new city, surrounded by strangers. This is what the Newman Centre was to me – a home away from home.
Despite this feeling of being home, I did not get involved in the Newman Centre right away. I noticed that there were several churches in downtown, and spent the entirety of my first year of undergrad “church-hopping”. I was busy with my studies and friends, so I chose the most convenient masses to go to: I would hop into Notre Dame de la Salette right before my brunch at Cora’s, the Cathedral after shopping in downtown, and the Newman Centre in between study sessions at the library. I hopped in and out, confining my faith to single hours of liturgy.
By the end of first year, I felt really alone in my faith. None of the friends that I had made were Christian, which was a stark contrast from the Catholic environment I grew up in. I was struggling with living out my ideals on my own and had a mountain of questions that I wanted answered. At that point, I realized that, just as I was advancing in my academics and adjusting to life away from home, I could no longer stay stagnant in my faith – I had to go deeper.
At the beginning of second year, I returned to the Newman Centre with openness to what it had to offer, and it was probably the best decision I made in my undergrad. I had grown to love Linda’s homemade soup, which was often accompanied with a side of silly conversation or intense philosophical discussions. My faith was nourished by wonderful talks and faith studies, and I was always comfortable with voicing my questions about my faith as they were met with patience and knowledge. My time at Newman was filled with wonderful friendships with people who walked along side me on my faith journey, be it through my day-to-day struggles, or to World Youth Day in both Madrid and Rio de Janeiro. One of my favourite memories was the time Fr. Greg caught me sleeping at a daily mass, apologized for having a “soothing voice that resembled a lullaby”, and proceeded to make the entire congregation stand and sing for the rest of the mass in order to keep me awake.
The Newman Centre was a place where I experienced genuine Christian love – both from the wonderful people, and also knowing that no matter how I’m feeling, the chapel is always open and Christ is always inviting me to spend time with Him. Faith is meant to be lived, and it is not meant to be lived alone. My time at Newman showed me the importance of community and I will take that with me and will continue to strive to remain immersed in communities of faith for the rest of my journey.