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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Rosales

Finding Hope Through My Faith


Reconnecting with my religion helped me cope with this chaotic moment

 

The pandemic has taken away so many things in my life: my last semester of college, a summer with my family back in the Philippines, a proper graduation, and more.


But, recently I’ve tried to get back one aspect of my life that COVID-19 took from me: my religion.

image: Reggie Onorati


Being a devout Catholic is a part of who I am. I went to an all-girls catholic school my whole life. Sundays were spent at church with my family, then at the mall for lunch and a movie. However, that changed when I moved to Boston for college. The distance from my home country all these years made it challenging for me to keep up with my faith. And, COVID-19 especially put a dent in it.


Last March, I had just returned from a service trip with my college’s Catholic student organization when they announced school was transitioning online. Fueled with fears of the unknown, I decided to stop by St. Anthony’s Shrine. I needed some form of peace and quiet. To my distress, I saw a solemn note on the door that the church was closed indefinitely.


Months passed and my mental health took a toll. I stopped exercising and drank a little more than I should have. I decided to get help by seeing a therapist. Still, I was barely hanging on to any hope I had for myself or the future.


For some reason, when I was at my lowest of lows, when I had no sense of the world, I thought: who is the one person who still has faith? As cliche as it sounds, I thought of God. I just had to reach out to him. Maybe what I was missing is his comfort—the comfort of my religion.



image: Reggie Onorati

Pre-COVID, it was as easy as going inside the church or going to mass again. I couldn’t exactly do that in the middle of a pandemic. So I posted on the Filipinos in Massachusetts Facebook group asking for some resources. Everybody was excited to see someone at my age reach out. I received invitations to different churches, ones that weren’t even Catholic.


The first virtual mass I went to was a Filipino mass hosted by Boston College. Up at 11 a.m. on a Sunday in my pajamas, I joined the Zoom call then immediately turned off my video and microphone. The number of participants grew to 90, and although I didn’t know a single person, I was already moved. I couldn’t believe there were 98 Filipinos, from the U.S. and Philippines, who all came together to pray. I was alone in my living room, but I felt comfort in the virtual congregation.


When the mass started, I was surprised at how big of a Zoom production everything was. The gospel missalettes were uploaded on the chat room. There was a technical support team who played videos of the choir right on cue. Each person filmed themselves, earphones on, and their videos were put together — combining all the children and adult voices into a new virtual choir.


When the titles of the songs came up, songs that I grew up singing at church, that I haven’t sang in years, I was already so excited to sing. When I sang Ama Namin, (Filipino version of The Lord’s Prayer), my voice cracked and tears streamed down my face. I prayed the hardest I ever could when they read prayers for frontliners, the sick, the ones who’ve gone too soon, the state of the world, the Philippine government, Filipino journalists, and more. With a box of tissues on my side, I cried throughout the whole one-hour service.

image: Reggie Onorati

Before, my days were spent doom scrolling, crying over the unknown and feeling so helpless. Once the mass was over, I suddenly felt at peace. It may not seem much, but praying and asking for help felt like progress to me.


I came back the week after, and the week after that. I intend to go back every Sunday.


My outlook changed since I started going to mass. I suddenly felt like I had hope by my side. Someone was looking out for me. I started applying to jobs again and even asked my mother to pray the rosary during the job interview process.


My rekindled faith made me realize that all I can do is simply pray that everything will be okay and trust in God’s plan. In a world where there’s so much we can’t do, just the fact I could pray and shout my concerns to the universe gives me peace.

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