While Malone is affiliated with the Friends Church, there are students and staff from a variety of religious backgrounds on campus. Catholic students’ experiences at Malone differ compared to their Protestant peers not just in faith practices, but also in the classroom.
Junior youth ministry and Bible and theology major Joseph Frangos was raised Catholic but converted to Protestantism before enrolling at Malone. His sophomore year at Malone, Frangos returned to the Catholic Church.
When Frangos decided to re-join the Catholic Church, he debated where God was calling him.
“The Youth Ministry program definitely made me choose Malone and I still feel like God is calling me to be at Malone until I graduate. I love the community of Malone, I love the ideas that Malone stands for,” Frangos said.
Frangos said that his classes have helped him appreciate Protestantism better.
“I can have an open conversation with somebody and I can understand both sides of the coin. I understand where the Protestants are coming from but then I also understand where the Roman Catholics are coming from,” said Frangos. “And I’m able to navigate those really difficult conversations.”
There have also been challenges for Frangos.
“Probably the most difficult thing would be my classes. When it comes to writing my papers, sometimes I have to wrestle with, do I write it in the Protestant theology or the Roman Catholic theology?” said Frangos. “And if I do write it in the Roman Catholic theology, I have to then go do all the research to make sure I have all the sources to back it up.”
However, Frangos said the professors have been very encouraging.
“My professors have helped me a lot. They’re very good at guiding me in my writing and in my thoughts and ideas. They have always tried to support me and they haven’t said that I can’t write that,” Frangos said.
Michelle Wagner, senior exercise science major, is also one of Malone’s Catholic students. Wagner said that her mom was initially opposed to her coming to Malone. She wanted to stay close to home but didn’t particularly like Walsh.
“I didn’t like the people; they didn’t seem interested in being there. When I visited Malone it was really refreshing,” Wagner said. “The people are very enthusiastic and real. There’s just something dynamic about Malone that I really liked.”
Especially during her freshman year, Wagner said her classes have helped her to understand her faith better.
“When I took classes like Intro to Theo or Bible classes or even World History, and I was one of the only Catholic students it the class, it made me think about what being Catholic meant and why I was Catholic. Just looking at the big picture of Christianity. It was all very nonbiased,” Wagner said.
“Hearing really educated people defend their doctrine that’s different from my doctrine pushed me to hold my Catholicism and understand it more,” she said.
In addition to learning more about her own faith, classes and relationships have taught Wagner how diverse Protestantism is.
Wagner has also faced some challenges. During her years at Malone, she said the most difficult thing to adjust to was the worship style in chapel and events like Celebration.
“The style that I’ve always been more comfortable with is more traditional hymns,” Wagner said. “It’s kind of hard to tap into that sometimes because the chapels and pretty much all the worship opportunities here are very modern and evangelical.”
When the choice of a more traditional chapel is offered, she goes to those and prefers them.
Both Wagner and Frangos still like Malone and have no intentions of leaving, despite sometimes facing struggles because of their Catholic faith.
In response to these struggles Wagner, along with senior business administration major Catherine Kennedy, founded the Catholic student group Ichthys last year.
Wagner missed the more traditional worship experience she was used to and wanted to provide Ichthys as a way for Catholic students and students from higher liturgical backgrounds to worship together as well as for Protestant students to learn about Catholic theology.
“I’ve never had a really negative experience with being a Catholic here but we run into innocent ignorance type things. We would love to have people come [to Ichthys meetings] just to learn about us,” Wagner said.
Frangos said his mission for Ichthys is “to see the group grow into a stronger community of faith and that they will build each other up. I want to see more students coming who are both Catholic and non-Catholic to learn about the faith and really dig in deep.”
Wagner has big plans for Ichthys this year. Currently the group is showing a documentary series about Catholicism. The first part of the series was shown October 4 and the other seven parts will be shown throughout the semester.
Kaitlyn Stump is a contributing writer for The Aviso AVW.