Before joining the R.C.I.A. through the campus ministry at Neumann University, Aston, Pa., Ashley Girard had minimal experience with the Catholic Church.
“My mother is Jewish and my father is Catholic and they raised me without a religion. Therefore, I was never baptized,” the 22-year-old Howell native said.
Other than having attended a few Baptisms in the Church and going to Mass once or twice with her beloved grandfather, who is now deceased, her church experience was limited.
Inward desires of wanting to attend a Catholic college to pursue studies in athletic training along with wanting to find a religion and a faith in which she could believe were determining factors for Girard’s enrolling in Neumann. Girard, who is a junior, said she became involved with the campus ministry program where she grew to love “the friendships I’ve made,” participate in and eventually lead retreats and perform community service works as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.
Noting that it’s been more than a year-and-a-half since she joined the R.C.I.A., Girard glowed as she spoke of how “walking this journey to the Church was exciting and informational.”
“It made me feel better knowing that God was with me and will be with me,” she said.
Girard was one of eight students to participate in Neumann’s R.C.I.A. process. She was baptized, confirmed and received first Holy Communion during a Mass celebrated April 23, Divine Mercy Sunday, by Bishop Edward M. Deliman, auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia. The Mass was celebrated in the chapel of Our Lady of Angels Convent, which is on Neumann’s campus.
It was heartening for her to learn how receiving the Eucharist is what differentiates Catholics from other Christian faiths.
“Finding God has led me to believe in forgiveness and is a way for me to remember my Pop Pop,” she said, noting that she wishes she had attended more Masses with her grandfather when he was alive.
Girard chose Michelle as her Confirmation name because her grandfather’s Confirmation name was Michael.
“My Pop Pop was my best friend and best teacher, and I wanted to do something to not only help me, but to honor his spirit,” she said.