Ok, yeah, we've been pushing real hard to spread the news about NOVUS, our pre-NSO freshmen orientation retreat. Why? Because it's important. Because your faith matters. We asked Tom Stevens about his experience of going on NOVUS last year as a freshmen and to share some reflections after his first year at Penn.
1. What activities are you involved with currently at Penn?
At Penn I'm on the Exec Committee at Newman, I altar serve (I also sort of ushered once), I play Lacrosse, and I'm very involved with Wawa.
2. What was it about Novus that prepared you for your first year at Penn?
First it gave me a community and a place that I could be comfortable in. After Novus, I knew the Newman Center was a place I could come to do homework, relax and chill out, or scavenge a snack. It also helped by giving me a bunch of smart Catholic upperclassmen who already knew how the whole college thing worked. Novus also gave me a chance to befriend the brothers (what we call the young, lay consecrated men who are assigned here, like Alan, our director!). I can go to any of the bros with any question or if I wanted to get destroyed in ping pong. Finally, Novus gave me a friend group before everyone else even showed up to school. This meant that during Novus (and beyond), I had friends that I could grab lunch with or go do an activity with. That was really clutch for an introvert like myself.
3. How do you manage to practice your faith with all of your studies and extra curriculars at a demanding school like Penn?
Practicing your Faith definitely is an active choice that you need to pursue. At the heart of your faith is a relationship with God, after all. Some things that really helped me were making the extra effort to stay close to the friends I made at the Newman Center and on Novus. I also joined a small group led by one of the brothers that really grounded me and helped me continue learning about my Faith. This really helped me put what I was learning in the classroom in perspective. Also, getting involved at Newman really helped – Christ in the City, different workshops, and Newman dinners all helped me to have fun, learn, and refocus on the King.
4. What is most challenging about being Catholic at Penn, and what advice would you give to incoming Catholic freshmen regarding it?
The hardest thing for me was consistently making time for daily prayer. It was so tempting to get swept away in the business and sleep or study for an extra ten minutes rather then spend time with the Lord. But if you can start everyday with a quick prayer time – whether it's reading a scripture, journaling, or just venting and giving the day to God – even if its five minutes, it really makes a difference. One more piece of advice – get to adoration and daily mass, as much and as often as you can. Even if you have to skip a class once a month. You won't regret it.
5. Has your faith changed at all this past year?
My faith has definitely changed and grown over the past year. As I've gone on retreats, been in small group, and watched God work in my life over a year at Penn, I've learned more and my relationship with Christ has grown stronger.