Natalia Guerrero, a 19-year-old sophomore at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, Mass., credits her family with the development of her faith life, then her parish with teaching her to express it, but it was the living witness of another young adult that helped her to embrace a faith of her own.
Guerrero, of Orlando, Fla., and her mother attended a preview weekend at MIT once she was accepted and at Mass, Maita Esteban, a junior introduced herself. When Guerrero returned for orientation, Esteban invited her to join a Bible study in her dorm room.
|Natalia Guerrero (second from left) is a sophomore at MIT leading a Bible study in her dorm room. Photo courtesy of Maita Esteban
“We used a book through (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) to reintroduce us to our faith and it was then I realized that each of us is personally called to have a relationship with Jesus,” Guerrero told Our Sunday Visitor. “Maita and I became good friends — a faith-based friendship. We went on retreats and to a lot of social events.”
Both women have been involved with the Tech Catholic Community (TCC), a group composed of undergraduate and graduate students dedicated to fostering the faith life of Catholics at MIT.
“[TCC] is mixed with grads and undergrads, but we had these protective big brothers who walked us home if it was late and taught me what I was worth as a woman. That was really beautiful,” Guerrero told OSV. “I felt like this had become my family. They loved me because of me. MIT has a lot of academic pressure and I really needed this.”
“We were really blessed to step into MIT,” Maria Guerrero, Natalia’s mother, said. “It was a required stop that we meet the Catholic priest, [and] went to Mass. We learned about the program and talked with other parents and students. They embraced us with open arms. It felt like we were home.”
Maria Guerrero offered her tips to parents on how to ensure their children keep the faith at college.
“I would say to parents now, prepare and research before you go. Go to the website; find out who the priest or youth minister is. You can email them even before you go. Having an extended faith family is an important factor — it should be one of the most important points in selecting a school.”
Helping with transition
Once home for the summer, Guerrero felt a call to do something for other young people in that transition period. Together with Dominic Buckley, a seminarian for the Diocese of Orlando to be ordained a provisional deacon in April, she planned a youth group and presented the program to their pastor. It is still going strong with new youth leaders.
“Natalia and I made every effort to share the beauty of our faith as we’ve experienced it—how to experience it as meaningful for life,” said Buckley. “Being together, getting to know each other, sharing the questions we have about life and eternity. We asked what does this have to do with me. And discovered the answer—it’s something so beautiful.”
“I met the new FOCUS missionaries when I returned to school and became more invested in evangelization,” Guerrero said. “I got a copy of ‘YouCat’ and continued to grow in relationship with Jesus.”
In January, she was one of 1,000 young people to attend the FOCUS Student Leadership Summit in Baltimore.
“Jesus is calling me to follow him and give everything I am to him. My right now is being a student. Learning that I am loved by Christ and experiencing that love is something very powerful.”
“Something happened to Natalia at MIT and she came home to her parish and had this experience — what could she do with it? How could she share it with high school students at home?” Buckley said. “That’s important — something happened to Natalia and she was able to connect at her home parish and has gone back to Boston to share that — the Church is being built!”
Guerrero is leading four women in a Bible study and has introduced lectio divina into her prayer life. She said she is majoring in physics because, “I felt God was calling me to discovery of his universe and to discover the answers to the questions we don’t know yet — to uncover the mystery of his universe.”