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Generosity that Transforms Lives: Sponsor a Student Program Inspires Mentorship and Formation

October 21, 2019

This story originally appeared in the Summer ’19 edition of Instaurare Magazine. 

Through the college’s Sponsor a Student program, generous benefactors are assisting more students than ever to pursue a Christendom College education. Thanks to their benefactors’ support, Christendom students are living out their education and bringing formation in Christ beyond the classroom, into the dorms, and out into the world.

By the generosity of an anonymous benefactor, Rebecca Byrne ’20 came to Christendom determined to learn all she could from the many student formation and development opportunities offered at the college.

Growing up in a faithful Catholic parish in Northern Virginia, Byrne knew that Christendom College was one of the few institutions that would provide her with a rigorous and authentically Catholic education. An additional selling point for her was knowing Christendom’s dedication to forming the whole person.

Byrne experienced Christendom’s dedication to formation in a very real way over her past three years at the college, especially through her work with student life as a resident assistant (RA).

“This role has been fundamental in changing my approach to everything in life, be it academic, personal, or spiritual,” shares Byrne. “It’s challenged me to always think critically about how I speak and how I act, and it’s stopped me from simply coasting through life in my comfort zone.”

Choosing to double major in political science and theology, and playing on the varsity softball team, Byrne stays heavily involved with campus life. She shares, however, that being an RA is providing the strongest personal formation opportunity out of all her campus experiences. Excelling in her position, Byrne is the head RA for women.

“I came to Christendom to focus on being a whole person,” Byrne says. “I don’t want to leave with just a degree and nothing else. I want to leave Christendom as a person who has participated in athletics, community building events, student formation, and the rich spiritual life on campus. That’s why I love this community. It teaches us not only how to be a student, but how to live excellently outside of college.”

In recent years, the student life department has increased services for both male and female students, with leaders like Byrne inspiring enthusiasm and involvement. At the Well, a fellowship series for the women of campus, provides discussion of the challenges Catholic women face today. Similarly, Into the Deep is a series for the men of campus, addressing issues such as authentic Catholic manhood. The Strongholds program flourished this year with separate small groups, led by a faculty or staff mentor, dedicated to strengthening community, accountability, and personal faith among students.

Byrne shares that participating in formation initiatives as an RA, as well as the many mentorship opportunities they’ve provided, has helped her both give and receive the most from her Christendom experience.

“As head RA, I will get to be the servant of the servants,” reflects Byrne. “I can give of myself to everyone around me for the sake of the community and for the sake of God. Forming a strong community provides the foundation for everything else we do here at Christendom, and I’m honored to be a part of it.”

Rebecca Byrne is one of Christendom’s many students benefiting from the Sponsor a Student Program, which has facilitated her education. In part because of Christendom College’s rejection of federal funds, there is an average shortfall of $5,000 per student each year. The college and its students rely on the generosity of its benefactors through the Sponsor a Student program to help bridge this gap so that students like Byrne can attend and thrive at Christendom.