Published January 2021, Prince William County Catholic Magazine
by Jean Mondoro
My name is Jean Mondoro and I am the fourth of eight children of two wonderful parents. I grew up as a homeschooler in the parish of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and am now a junior at the University of Mary Washington, where I am double-majoring in Communications and Music and minoring in Journalism. I can hardly believe how blessed I am to have had the journey to get me this far.
When I was a child, faith was just something that was a part of my family, and so I participated because I, too, am a part of the same family. I developed a certain love for it as I watched my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles live their marriages out in this faith, which inspired me from a very young age. My eighth grade Confirmation marks the first personal connection between me and my faith in the friendship I began with St. Therese of Lisieux.
The graces I received in the sacrament of Confirmation proved to save my faith as I entered my sophomore year of high school. At this time, I began to struggle tremendously with my faith. I fell into a habit of
constantly asking God “why” certain things were happening in my life. Seeing people suffering and hearing about all the evil that occurs every single day led me to a place of deep and personal discouragement. I just couldn’t seem to find the hope in all of that despair. Looking back, I can see how Jesus took my hand and pulled me out of that darkness and into a place where my faith became the strongest part of who I am today.
Every day found me wrestling with my reasons for being Catholic and why I bothered praying when there never seemed to be any light in the darkness. More than once I would break down, feeling so abandoned by God that I would tear off the crucifix which I always wore around my neck. But by the end of each of these frequent “breakdowns,” I would look at Jesus on the cross, who died for me, and I kissed the crucifix before gently clasping it around my neck again. I realized, over time, that no matter how angry I was at God or how confused I was by what I believe, I am nothing without my faith. This new understanding did not dissolve all struggles I had within my faith, but it did help me to remain steady in believing in God’s infinite mercy and love.
By the time I finished high school, I had developed a prayer routine and cultivated a desire and determination to grow in faith in college. Through it all, my parents were a constant inspiration to me. Whatever suffering they encounter, they remain faithful in their love for each other and for Christ. Every day I am blown away by their example, which so beautifully illustrates the love Jesus has for each of us as He hangs on the cross, and which makes me want to love Him and others in the same way.
Since starting college in much better spiritual health than I was two years before, I have grown so much in faith as a member of the Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Mary Washington. This community has provided me with so many inspiring examples in the students and staff whom I am blessed to call friends. Last year, I volunteered with certain parts of the ministry when I could, slowly building relationships with others and falling more in love with Jesus. This year, I am honored to be serving as evangelization and liturgy assistant.
The importance of community in faith, serving in the apostolate and working in evangelization have set my heart on fire with a desire to spread the Gospel in a much more personal and intentional way than I have ever felt a desire to do. I am hoping to serve the church in a few different apostolates, including music ministry within the campus ministry and my parish, pro-life work with women and children and writing regularly for a Catholic news source, beginning right here with this magazine.
My journey of faith is one that has been hard, but every day I am convinced that it is well worth the fight. And at the end of the day, I truly believe that faith is everything. I don’t know what I would do without it.