Many college students struggle to find faith and purpose in today’s world. For Mike Rego, a current senior at Christendom, this was certainly the case when he began his freshman year, even coming to the college as a self-professed atheist. However, his story did not end there — through the help and encouragement of the campus chaplain and Rego’s friends at Christendom, he began to take steps towards returning to the Church, eventually finding his faith and future vocation at the college.
Rego was raised Catholic — however, growing up “family faith [was] kind of a rocky ride,” according to him. Around the time Rego was born, his father began to be more active and committed to his Catholic Faith. Even though Rego would often go to Mass with his dad and attended Catholic schools in the states and abroad in Spain, when it came time to personally claim the faith, he turned away.
“By the time you’re old enough and it’s time to make that decision, ‘do I actually make this faith my own or not?’, when that decision finally came to me it was a no,” explained Rego. “It had always been just a duty for me and never really been a faith.”
When Rego came to Christendom, he described his faith as “non-existent.” Rego had attended two previous colleges and was a self-proclaimed atheist filled with bitterness towards the Church. The only reason Rego was coming to the college was to make his father happy.
However, it was during freshman year that Rego realized he could not face the weight of his problems alone. Throughout the year, Rego had become a person that people would go to with their own problems. This all eventually became too much for him.
“If I wanted to help these people better, I had to help myself first,” recalls Rego. “I thought, ‘who’s better to listen to problems than a Catholic priest who works on a college campus?’”
Rego soon setup a meeting with college chaplain Fr. Marcus Pollard. During his first meeting, Rego explained that he was not practicing Catholicism and did not want Catholic answers to all his problems. Regardless, they made a plan to meet frequently. It was not until the third meeting that Fr. Pollard began to speak to Rego about the faith. After a few weeks, Rego went to confession again for the first time in years and began to attend Mass occasionally.
Rego still had many ups and downs, but through the encouragement from Fr. Pollard and friends, his downs became more manageable. Having the Church in his life again helped him to realize that depression and anxieties were not something to be ignored but instead to be addressed.
As he continued along his faith journey, Rego also received encouragement from his friends at Christendom. At the beginning of freshman year, his friends would invite him to go to Mass, although he would decline. Looking back on that time, Rego was grateful for their care for his well being and believes their love was integral to his return to the Faith.
“I told them I was very grateful to them for the invite because I understood that, from their perspective, they were offering me a great good,” says Rego. “I didn’t see it in that way at the time, but I understood that they were trying to do me good. It was coming from an authentic attitude of care.”
The classes at Christendom helped Rego further on his journey as well — in particular his philosophy classes.
“Definitely a class that was beneficial in changing my view on things and how I live my life was Dr. [Mark] Wunsch’s ethics class,” says Rego. “That ethics class was very good for me, [helping] me think there are good ways to gain natural virtue and balance my life. The Aristotelian idea of virtue as a mean between two different vices definitely helped me put a lot of different virtues that I could develop into perspective.”
Through facing his own struggles with the help of Fr. Pollard and the Christendom community, Rego has not only returned to the Church — he’s been inspired to help others with their struggles as well by pursuing counseling after college through Divine Mercy University, following in the footsteps of many other alumni who have done the same.
“I see a lot of anxiety and a lot of depression among young people,” concludes Rego. “The idea of helping them figure their issues out before they really delve into the world, it’s nice to me. I want to help them with their anxiety, with their depression.”
Questioning one’s faith, especially in a culture that encourages such actions, is unfortunately common today. The solution, though, is often as simple as reaching out to a college chaplain for help. Rego took that leap upon coming to Christendom and found not only his faith again — he found his vocation and his future wife as well.
When Rego arrived at Christendom, he was filled with doubts. Now, as he prepares to finish his college career, he is filled with confidence that his experiences from Christendom — from the classes to his new-found faith — will aid him in his career devoted to helping others.
This story was contributed by Ashlianna Kreiner (’22).