My faith journey
Offering up my every thought, word and deed in today's daily offering.
I had no interest in religion
It’s fair to say that my Ignatian Formation, or as I like to refer to it: my “faith journey”, began when I was taken on as Administrator for the Chaplaincy in September 2014. Prior to this I had very little understanding of the Catholic faith and absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of the Society of Jesus! I’d been brought up in a family that had no time or place for God and despite attending C of E schools growing up, I had no interest in religion or finding a relationship with God. In my head it was possible that He existed, but I told myself I was fine without Him, that He didn’t fit into my life, so I continued my youth in what I can only say was an innocent ignorance. It wasn’t until some years later in my mid-twenties when I experienced a life-changing family bereavement that I began searching for the God I had shut out for so many years.
During this time of grief I was compelled to do more to help others and I began volunteering at the Manchester Central Foodbank. The service runs from the chaplaincy building, and without my knowing it, my “goodwill” had automatically connected me to a Catholic institution run by Jesuits.
Subsequently I landed myself a job working for the Lead Chaplain, Fr Tim Byron SJ, and a whole new world was opened up in front of me. I suddenly became a witness to an international student population united in faith whilst studying at university in the heart of a bustling city. This solidarity is something I still find truly inspiring. It is the students, alongside the Jesuit community here, who have supported me on my own faith journey; from answering my many questions about God and the Church’s teachings, to wholly accepting me within their community despite my lack of faith. They have shown me the reality of God’s good work and mercy in its truest forms. It is because of this overwhelming love and acceptance that I truly felt God’s unconditional love for me, and I made the decision to become Catholic and joined the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) at my local parish. I was received into the Church on the night of the Easter Vigil in March 2016.
Listening to the Word of God in Swahili
The Jesuits have invested in me and I feel truly valued as a person, an employee and a member of this faith community. I have been graced with some truly amazing opportunities that have really enhanced my understanding of the faith I have chosen to be part of. One of my most memorable experiences of Ignatian formation was a voluntary mission to Tanzania in summer 2016 with three of our students. We spent a month teaching at St. Ignatius Prep and Primary School (founded and built by Jesuits from the East African Province) in Dodoma. It was during this time that I truly felt God’s presence in everything and everyone. I was one of over 800 people at 7:00am Sunday Mass in a Jesuit Church in central Tanzania listening to the Word of God in Swahili – something quite unimaginable to me just a couple of years ago! At the end of each day the four of us would do our best to spend time praying together in front of the Blessed Sacrament, reflecting back over the day, much like the Examen.
I have learned to stop questioning and doubting myself
After returning from home from Tanzania, I was blessed with the opportunity to spend eight days at St. Beuno’s Spirituality Centre in North Wales on a silent retreat – something that was completely alien to me and that I was quite nervous about as a “baby Catholic”. However it was there that I became more aware of my personal relationship with God and the areas in which I wanted to strengthen and find deeper meaning. Spending this time in silence enabled me to dedicate myself to prayer, something which I can easily forget or overlook in my day-to-day life. I learned new and different ways of praying, and gained a tangible understanding of the Holy Trinity through varied prayer methods; from conversations with Jesus, to imagining myself in a piece of scripture and even paying attention to my breathing and letting the Holy Spirit fill me. I now stop questioning and doubting myself about whether or not I’m praying “properly” and have established a prayer life within my daily life that keeps me truly connected with God in all His forms.
I know God is quietly working within her
Something I have found particularly special is the positive reaction from my family towards my decision to become part of the Church. In particular my mother (who claims to be Atheist) who now attends Sunday Mass with me whenever she visits Manchester or when I return home for a weekend. It is now she who asks me the questions that I once asked the students; and whilst I may not always be able to answer everything with the strongest confidence, my answers are always from the heart and from how I have come to know God. Knowing that she finds happiness seeing me the happiest I’ve ever been because I have found fulfilment in my life, gives me hope. What she can’t quite grasp yet is that this fulfilment can only come from knowing God, but we often talk and share our feelings about God, which helps. She is so supportive of my work and all that it entails that I know God is quietly working within her. She often says she wants to believe but doesn’t know how... “I believe Lord help my unbelief”
I want my mum to see God in me. I want everyone to
One of my favourite bits of scripture is John (10:10) – “I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full” because I believe that God wanted me to find out who I am and what my purpose in life is. He was there all along in my hardest times, at the centre of my grief I just couldn’t see it. He was the voice inside me urging me to find a better way of life and fuelling me with a desire to help others. He was gently showing me that I have a purpose, and is still guiding me towards it to this day. That’s why I want my mum to see God in me. I want everyone to. If I can be a witness of God in all that I say and do, whilst praying for my family and friends, even those I don’t know, maybe they too will encounter Him and possibly even accept Him in their lives one day. In the meantime I know He is working through me to reach them and will wait patiently for them to reach back, as He did with me.
Stephanie Meredith, Office Manager at the Manchester Universities Catholic Chaplaincy
An individually guided retreat offers you the time and opportunity to pay attention to God and to be more aware of God’s work in your life. It also gives the space to pray and to reflect on your life, to consider the decisions you have to make, and the priorities you want to set. Take a look at this weekend retreat for young adults at St Beuno's. Take a look >>
Watch this short video from a few years ago about the Manchester central foodbank where Stephanie first volunteered. Visit the website of the Manchester central foodbank >>
Do you feel called to serve others? Are you looking for a chance to experience a new way of life? We do also offer volunteering opportunities with Jesuit Missions. Find out more >>